Bruce’s amaryllis is getting ready to bloom. Which is a miracle really, because I forgot to cut it back. Amaryllises thrive on abuse apparently. If you whack off the leaves, deprive them of water and let the bulb poke out of the soil way farther than you think it should, those things will bloom like a son of a gun. This particular amaryllis has red flowers.

Bruce gave it to me two Christmases before he died.

Amaryllis is kind of the go-to flower for a quick Christmas present. A bulb in a pot. You water it and, bam, instant flower. I got one from my sister a couple of years back. It bloomed wildly and then sort of passed away.

But the one Bruce gave me seems to go on forever.

I have to admit I wasn’t too kind to it when it first arrived. Not that I fault Bruce for getting it for me. I’m notoriously hard to shop for. Even when people know my favorite obsessions, I’m not always obsessed with them that particular day. Brian took me to Dark Delicacies bookstore. “Look at all the vampire books!” My response: “Oh, Irish ghost stories.”

It’s like that.

Anyway, Bruce gave me this flower. Well, it wasn’t a flower yet. It was dirt in a pot. Ummm…thanks. I put it out in the garage, intending to one day plant it somewhere in the yard.

Eight months later, Bruce was diagnosed with HIV.

It’s funny how your brain works at times like that. How you want to do something when there’s really nothing you can do.

My first thought was to bring in the plant. As if somehow my treatment of a Christmas present had caused the whole thing. But when I went out to get it, I discovered it was covered with slugs. Big slimy slugs of all shapes and sizes, eating holes in the bulb and leaving shiny trails all over the pot.

I was furious.

I got a stick and knocked them all off. I washed the pot clean. I brought the amaryllis inside and put it in the window.

In the morning, there were more slugs.

I don’t know where they came from. Out of the dirt, out of the bulb. Maybe one of them had laid eggs in the dirt, I don’t know. I cleaned them all off again.

Next morning, more slugs.

The reasonable thing would have been to just let the slugs have it, but I couldn’t do that. Not with Bruce’s Christmas present. Not with Bruce in and out of the hospital. So I killed slugs. I killed a lot of slugs. I guess in my mind, if I saved the amaryllis, Bruce would get well.

But slugs are a lot easier to kill than the HIV virus.

Bruce died in August. The amaryllis bloomed for the first time the following Christmas. It blooms almost every Christmas or sometime around the beginning of the year. Even when I forget to prune it.

Maybe Bruce got the right present after all.


2 thoughts on “Perennial

  1. Rob,
    I loved your story. I can hear your voice as I read the article. Bruce was a lucky man to have you in his life. I know what efforts you went to be a good friend to him.


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