I was given an orchid plant on my first day of work back in 2014. It was one of those grocery store orchids -- already in bloom, full bodied and bright fuchsia. The thought behind it was rooted in business etiquette; I was starting a new career after abandoning the listless brand of being a 20-something boomerang child.
Knowing nothing about orchids, I perched its beauty on my windowsill and forgot about it. It was always there, every morning. I'd glance up after lunch, I'd watch its petals glow from the sun shining behind it in the evening. Until it died. Or, I thought it died.
Devastated at the petals scattered around my new office, and with no time to care for it, I clipped the flower buds off but retained its original stem, hoping that with regular (yet scarce) watering, it would bloom again.
I waited 18 months, and found no signs of those blooms coming back. It kept turning out new leaves, new roots, and appeared to otherwise be alive. So I clipped its stem right off. One swift action with my office scissors, and it was gone.
A few months later, a new spike emerged. It grew quickly and I was hopeful for the blooms. I'd forgotten what the fuchsia looked like. For 18 months, I had nurtured a few leaves with a dead spike for the sake of it coming back one day, and it was starting to pay off. The new spike, the promise of new blooms.
One day in August, I came into my office to see three flower buds. Cognizant to its needs, I watered weekly and protected it from any triggering sensitivities. Indirect light, temperature control, even a little fertilizer marketed to helpless plant idiots like myself.
It bloomed while I was at a meeting. Two more blooms followed that week. It took a year and a half, but I no longer was holding onto a stick with leaves.
I came back from Las Vegas this weekend to an unbearable coastal heat wave. My apartment, situated less than a mile from the shore, was experiencing temperatures near 93 degrees. The heat will subside in the next day or two, but the misery is palpable and seems neverending.
My orchid wilted over the weekend. Two of the three flowers are drooping, browning, being the most dramatic motherfuckers. Unaware of the effort I'd previously put in to saving them from the bowels of my office trash can. The promise of another bloom, the desire to not fail at one measly task that comes so easily to others. This fucking orchid.
I quickly put several ice cubes on its soil and moved it away from where the temperatures must have scalded it over the weekend. It's situated in a cooler, shadier corner, away from the abuse to which I'd unknowingly exposed it. It was happy and I thought things were fine.
I keep glancing back at it. Looking over my shoulder, hoping that its new environment is doing it some good. Hoping the damage isn't permanent. Hoping that I won't have to wait another 18 months of excessive effort and care for this damn orchid to come back to life. I am slowly realizing that the work required to maintain something that only blooms for a few weeks every couple of years might not be a priority I am willing to take on anymore. I'm sad and embarrassed and defeated. It's just a plant. There are dozens more at the grocery store, with better leaves and more blooms and less hang ups. Why does my orchid have to be so temperamental? Why am I feeling sentimental about something that takes and takes and takes, and offers me absolutely nothing in return?