Plant Boy

Sometimes my stomach likes to make the journey up to my throat, where it lives lodged inside my esophagus, burning. It’s not a sensation similar to throwing up, rather a simulation that feels like lighting my carotid artery ablaze, letting the blood sizzle and cook like boiling water except far more grotesque. Wouldn’t boiling my blood be the equivalent of boiling water to a plant? I’ve never been very good at science, and especially bad at biology. I feel like plants don’t appreciate us using their life source as a base for cooking pasta.

My stomach lives there because I am tired, and I am angry, and I couldn’t feel less like a flower in those moments. Flowers are symbolic for being delicate and beautiful, and if anyone calls me delicate or beautiful, I would like to punch them. The reality is that I will cry to myself for maybe 30 minutes and then sit in paranoid shock, frozen and afraid, for another hour or so.

I am the farthest thing from beautiful. I am no flower, I feel more like a weed. I am a water-wasting, nutrient-stealing, ugly excuse for a plant.

I am a water-wasting, nutrient-stealing, ugly excuse for a son, brother, boyfriend, and friend, because let’s face it, I am a human being, whether I like it or not.

The excess water floats in my stomach and rocks me like a boat when strangers tell me I am pretty. I am a pretty girl, I am a delicate “she.” I am rocking back and forth from my heel to my toes and the water rocks with me, slish-slosh in my stomach, and I can feel it start to travel up my esophagus, climbing up the ladder it’s built to make the journey quicker and easier, to make itself at home in my throat where it does not belong, where it hurts.

I am a water-wasting, nutrient-stealing, ugly excuse for a human being. I am now convinced there is water in my veins where blood should be because it is socially acceptable for water to burn and boil and I am so tired of being considered a social outcast.

My blood will always boil, no matter where my stomach lives. My cheeks get hot and my skin turns red, and I can feel my whole body turn bright red because I will never have the confidence to correct my state of “pretty.” I don’t want to live in this constant swamp of tension and fear of correcting others, but then again I wish I just didn’t have to correct people.

There is no word to describe the ache in your stomach when the sweet old man behind the counter at the coffee shop says your name wrong on a bad day.

“What was that again? Leslie?”

No matter how intense the pang, how sharp the nausea, life moves on.

I never want to be a flower because I never wanted to be beautiful in the first place.

It’s sadly ironic that in a world of unique petals spread out across the universe, we exist in a world of gardeners. And, as every plant knows, the first thing a gardener is taught is to remove the plant’s roots.

I might complain a lot about my pretty existence, but the prospect of no existence at all surpasses annoying and enters an entirely different realm of horrific.

I am not afraid of death. I am not afraid of what might be lurking in the shadows of death, or what hell or heaven might have in store for me. My lucid thinking won’t allow for such trivial fears to prevent me from living my life to the fullest.

I am simply afraid I wasn’t alive enough.

There is water soaking the car seat and my cheeks, and in that moment I am hoping to melt into the leather, to drown in the backseat, to be the backseat. Please stop yelling. Please stop yelling. I can’t think.

There is truth to what my mother is saying, albeit I will admit, it’s hard to process everything spewing out because it feels like tears are forming in my ears as well, blocking me from hearing clearly.

I can make out phrases, bits and pieces of detrimental sentences that will cause a lifetime of damage.

“You aren’t a boy.”

“You’re making this up for attention.”

“You need to get help. This is a mental illness.”

The truth is, once we die, there won’t be an opportunity to correct the living. If they decide to commend you for your valiant efforts protecting those you loved, they’ll do it, even if you were an agoraphobic hermit with a side of apathy. If they want to spit your name in dark alleyways in a scornful tone like some sort of curse word, you don’t get to tell them otherwise. Nobody dead reprimands the living.

I am most afraid that the gardener will remove my roots, the things that have shaped the water-wasting, nutrient-stealing, ugly weed I am, the things that have made me feel connected, made me feel alive.

I am a son. I have a mother and a father, and it hurts to love them sometimes, but I do it unconditionally and without a second thought. I have no shame in loving fully and completely.

Sometimes I look at my mother and wonder what the cost of love is. I can hear her screaming when there is silence, and it hurts my brain and heart to feel the way I feel. Most of all it hurts to feel that past disdain directed at me, those harsh memories I’ve embedded into my flowerbed.

She tells me we’ve moved on, but is it really “we” if I still hear buzzing in the quiet? Is it a collective effort if it still burns my heart?

I am a brother. I have two younger sisters, and sometimes I feel weak because I cannot be there for them. Regardless, they are the most important people I have rooted myself to. I have no doubts I’m loving fully and completely.

I have a clear memory of my sister Sarah telling me, in a moment of rage, that the trembling presence of anger I had shown in the household when I was younger had damaged her. I won’t let go of that shame until the day I die.

Maybe me leaving home was a good thing. I miss them, but this might be better. This way I can’t hurt her anymore.

I also remember my youngest sister Caroline telling me, after I first came out to her as the boyish weed I live freely as now, that Wesley was a pretty name.

“Wesley,” she said contemplatively, pondering the arrival of a new chapter in my life that I had dragged into hers. “I like that.”

A ten year old has so much power over me. I would do anything to see her smile.

I am a boyfriend. I am in love, and it is different this time. It is filling and rich and it makes me feel powerful and humble. I have no limits in loving fully and completely.

Falling in love feels like rolling down a hill, because it hurts a bit and it takes your breath away but it feels young and free. Coincidentally, the first time I told you I loved you was at the bottom of a hill, after rolling down it together. Or maybe it was no coincidence at all.

Some days, I am content with myself. I am battered, and I am tired. Exhaustion seeps through me, fueling me, like a sickening substitute for a nutrient. I have been picked apart and stepped on, and yet I persist.

Is that enough? Is persistence, dedication, and motivation enough to pursue a life outside of the dimly lit dirt patch I have been planted in?

I am still so very afraid of being uprooted.

And so the thought ceases, and the time passes. I may never be able to catch a glimpse of my reflection long enough to tell if I am a flower or a weed. It doesn’t matter anymore.

I am rooted to this earth, to the people I love, so long as they’ll have me, so long as I’m kept there.