"What did I do wrong? How could I have failed you like this?" I wailed. "Was it the Coke? Is that what did you in?! Please, God, if you're up there, tell me what I did wrong!"
I collapsed onto the couch with a heavy sigh, my eyes soaked with tears. As I kicked my legs over the side of the sofa, I eyed the lily quietly wilting opposite me on the windowsill and tried desperately to recall exactly could have led to the demise of my beloved Jeremiah.
Last Saturday, as I was putting my key into the lock, I had tallied up a list of things that needed to be done. I had to take the trash out, do my long-neglected laundry, and water Jeremiah. Just three things. I could do it. Piece of cake. The last task was especially brainless. All I had to do was empty out the last dregs of water in my bottle into his pot, as I do every day.
Ordinarily this plan would've worked, because I rarely ever drink anything other than water, but that day I had been wanting something a bit...spicier. I had grabbed the can of Coke that had been sitting in the back of my refrigerator this morning and unthinkingly poured it into my bottle, figuring that I could just fill it up with water once I got to work.
Oh! That must've been it! I never did end up finishing the Coke, and I don't recall pouring it into the sink or anything... Poor Jeremiah had to suffer the consequences of my carelessness, and he certainly didn't seem to be enjoying it. His stems were weak and flimsy, his flowers sagged and drooped at unnatural angles, and I could've sworn he had a few dead leaves. What had I done to deserve this? My grandmother had entrusted me with him a few days before she passed, and all I had done to repay her was kill her favorite plant. I might as well have killed her.
Logically, I figured I had two options. Option A: I could throw him out and be done with it. I work minimum wage at a fast food restaurant, so I don't have that much money to be spending on reviving a potted plant that may or may not be dead. Or...I could choose Option B: Blind optimism. I could spend part of my savings on fertilizer, plant food, anything for my baby. I could hope beyond hope that there's some way to bring him back from near-death, but that would require a lot of resources and patience.
After a few hours of painful and nerve-wracking consideration, I came to my conclusion. I'd decided to scrape together the money that I had saved to buy a shabby watch on eBay and put it towards the "Save Jeremiah" Foundation. I immediately went down to the bank, withdrew the last $15 in my bank account, and drove to the nearest Home Depot. I bought a small bag of fertilizer and an even smaller bag of plant food. I rushed home, muttering a prayer for my poor Jeremiah under my breath. I was not going to watch my grandma die twice.
For a week after that fateful day, I poured a bit of plant food and a bit of fertilizer into Jeremiah's pot every day. I made sure to water him with actual water and not a carbonated soft drink. I sung to him, told him bedtime stories, even kissed him goodnight. I was the perfect plant parent for a week. I held my breath day by day, hoping that he'd perk up, maybe even sprout a new flower. It was insanely unlikely, but parents - regardless of whether the child is a human, an animal, or a plant - always seem to find a way to be unreasonable in their optimism.
However, as the week went on, I saw no improvement in Jeremiah's health. His stems continued to sink closer to the dirt, his leaves fell one by one, and his once porcelain-white flowers were yellowing by the minute. With every fallen leaf, the hope that I had for his survival dripped out of my eyes. By Sunday I was crying on the floor of my studio apartment, rocking back and forth and cradling Jeremiah.
I decided to go back to square one. I had just gotten paid, so I had a bit more money to put toward his recovery. On the other hand, I had bills to pay and food to buy; I couldn't afford to keep spending money on him indefinitely. But I didn't want to give up! I couldn't just surrender him to the plant afterlife without a fight. But I also couldn't afford to keep buying plant food and fertilizer if there was a possibility that he'd still be dead at the end of it. O indecision, thy name is woman!
With bated breath, I grabbed Jeremiah's little clay pot and gingerly carried him over to my sliding glass door. I opened the door with one hand, cupped Jeremiah in the other, and stepped over the little ledge onto the balcony. Tears welled up in my eyes as I walked to the railing, drew a deep breath, and held Jeremiah up to the light for the last time. I checked the sidewalk below to make sure some hapless soul wasn't walking beneath, shut my eyes, and let go.
The last thing I heard before I blacked out was the sound of clay shattering on asphalt.