water once a week / by laurel

Sometimes I wonder about living alone. It seems that when I bring it up in conversation, I get one of two reactions. The first is the dumbfounded gawk; the eyes-wide-mouth-gaping reaction akin to telling someone you have a fatally contagious skin disease or, worse, that you are a democrat. “You live alone? You? Ah-lone?”
Yes. Alone.
“No! You? No…”
People just can’t fathom what all the minutes must amount to. What do you do when you’re not with other people? I mean, it’s just so…empty…and lonely.
The second, and more mystifying reaction goes something like this:
“…And I live alone.”
Eyes wide. “You’re so lucky. I wish I lived alone. Oh, you’re so lucky!”
Either way, I feel the need to defend my state of alone-ness. Either I have to give a detailed account for how I spend all my superfluous alone-minutes, or conversely I need to swoop in and explain why it’s not lucky—not lucky at all—to live alone.
At any rate, in a single act of defiance against the living-alone stigma, I decided to buy a companion. I spotted him nestled in the company of at least a dozen other flourishing succulents. He was smaller than all the other cacti but there was something about those thorns, those spindly little arms outstretched rebelliously. And so I bought him at the Monrovia farmer’s market. And he was called Boo Radley. And he was to protect my apartment, therefore securing him the position of ATTACKtus. And he was very good.
The nature of a person’s proclivity for companionship is bewildering. And there I was naming and giving ownership to a cactus. Boo Radley was such a splendid cohort, too. He sat obediently on my coffee table, watching the door, observing the comings and goings of the apartment’s sole inhabitant. Of course in the absence of human companionship, I would occasionally bounce ideas off of Boo, who would respond with the unbiased opinion of a good friend.
“Boo Radley, do you think I should accept this job offer?”
Silence. Spindly little arms. Fierce and friendly at the same time.
“Ah, yes. Point well taken, point well taken. I will ask about the benefits.”
Silence. Spiney, green and fantastic.
“Again, touché. It’s up for negotiation, so I should respond accordingly. Such good advice, Boo. Such good advice.”
And so on.
However lately, I’ve been feeling guilty. I mean, I leave my apartment in the morning (bastioned and fortified to brave traffic on my Brea-LA commute), I work all day and I return, often well past 7pm. If people ever wonder what I do with my alone time in my sweet Junior One Bedroom digs, what they should really question is what poor Boo Radley does all day.
So in an act of compassion against the stigma of cacti alone-ness, I bought Boo Radley a friend, a garden gnome—a wee three inches tall and crowned with a rouge pointy hat. And he was called Mr. Britches. And he was very good.
Now I had a companion in Boo Radley, and Boo Radley had a companion in the stout Mr. Britches. And all was at peace in the quiet, balanced ecological unit of my apartment. However, lately I've been noticing that Boo Radley is sprouting some sort of preternatural arm. It is unusual to me because the plants I’ve had in the past (R.I.P. Bruce the deflated cactus and Chuck Norris the bonsai) haven’t sprouted anything; in fact, the only thing they ever did was die.
But now Boo has an arm, a barbed appendage, pale green and growing at an alarming rate. The arm has grown more than an inch in the last few days, and I’m beginning to wonder if Boo Radley and Mr. Britches aren’t secretly planning a coup to take over my apartment.
I fear I’ve created a monster. So perhaps companionship is overrated; after all, I used to live alone, and now I am at the sadistic mercy of a cactus and a miniature garden gnome. Isn’t adulthood grand?