How to Kill an Aloe Plant

aloe savila mexico

Two weeks ago someone gave me an aloe plant. They said, “Water it once a week.” Since then, I’ve been steadily killing it. Today I finally googled “aloe plant care” and read a bit about what you’re supposed to do. You’re not supposed to leave it in direct sunlight. You’re not supposed to water it more than once every three weeks (according to this site), and most importantly, you’re supposed to put it in a planter with good drainage.

I’ve done the opposite of all of these things.

And now the plant is dying. In fact, there may be no saving it. Today I found a planter with holes in the bottom. When I went to transplant the plant, who’s sort of named Bill but will be re-christened if he lives (I’ll let Patreon subscribers name him), I saw his roots. There was mold growing on them. They were black and brittle. I recoiled in nausea and chastised myself for letting things get to this point. I felt like an early settler crossing The Rockies whose foot has been numb for three days — ever since the blizzard — but he’s too scared to look at it. When he finally does he almost vomits. His foot has gangrene. It’s rotting.

There’s a metaphor to be had here, I just don’t know what it is. 

So now Bill is in a bigger pot with adequate drainage. I don’t know if he’ll live. The best thing to do at this point is to let him be. The reason I’ve killed him is a strange combination of paying too much attention to him and completely neglecting him. On the one hand, I paid too much attention to him, watering him every couple of days, putting him in the sun because I thought this was what you’re supposed to do, while a nagging voice said to me, “You really should research this a bit and figure out how to take care of these plants.” But I was too lazy. Too lazy to take 15 seconds to  google something. So in that way, I completely neglected Bill. I failed him.

There’s a metaphor to be had here, and I’m starting to get an idea of what it might be.

In a completely unrelated bit of a news (see: directly related) I have a new English student. He’s moving to the US in a couple months, and thus quite motivated. Yesterday, however, I discovered that his English, while somewhat competent on the surface, is actually in need of a major overall. I had him conjugate the verb “to be” and he could barely do it. I had him conjugate verbs in various forms of the present tense (negative, questions, negative questions), and he could only do it with much help. And so I realized: We need to start from the beginning. We need to go slow so he understands everything, and only then can we continue to more advanced structures like present perfect and simple past and the various forms for talking about the future. I like to think about it like building a house. You can put the prettiest coat of paint on a house, but if the framing is done wrong you better start over. And so that’s what we’re doing with my student’s English.

There’s a metaphor to be had here, and I think I know what it is. 

In a final bit of news, I’m trying to learn how to be a competent person, a competent adult. I’m trying to build the best life possible for myself here in Mexico, but I suspect certain habits are holding me back. I try meditating one day, and writing, and going on long walks. I try alcohol. I try food. I try talking to friends and going on Tinder dates and watching chess videos and immersing myself in work. I’m starting to wonder if I have more in common with Bill than I thought. I’m starting to wonder if I’m in the wrong planter, if the instructions I’ve gotten are maybe just a little off, and if I should do a bit of research and figure out how to really take care of this human being that is myself.

Because I feel like I might be doing exactly what I did to Bill: I’m paying attention, just in all the wrong ways. It’s like I’ve gotten an instruction manual for a human that isn’t even me, or some kind of general instruction manual whose tips need to be custom-fit before they can be effective, and the the challenge becomes how to do that. Strangely, I think Bill might be able to help me here. I think he might have some of the secrets. Which is why it’s imperative he doesn’t die. It’s imperative I find some good soil for him. And most importantly, it’s imperative that, at least for the time being, I leave him alone. 

Is there a metaphor here?

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