The loneliest I have ever been.
I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and on the verge of a divorce when my mother gave me a large potted plant.
My husband and I were sleeping in separate bedrooms by that time, and my beloved dog had firmly taken up residence in the other bedroom. I envied my husband so much because my precious dog loved him more than she loved me. I missed her gently snoring presence on my pillow more than words could say.
If I’d been smarter, I would have realized that our marriage was doomed from the start. My husband was the stereotypical user and abuser. He openly took on girlfriends. He abused drugs and drank too much, and that wasn't the worst of it.
My parents urged me to leave him, but I didn’t want to admit failure. I was committed to the marriage — well, not this marriage in particular as much as the concept of marriage in general — and I figured I’d make it work or die trying.
When my parents purchased a new bedroom set for their home, I accepted their used mattress and set it up across the hallway from the bedroom I’d shared with my husband since we bought our own home three years earlier. He’d frequently forced me to sleep on the floor anyhow. So he wouldn’t miss me in the master bedroom.
I loved sleeping alone again — although I would gladly have made room for my dog. There was no one trying to push me out of bed or elbowing my ribs if I snored in my sleep. My bedroom was sunny and bright. I kept the windows open to let in the fresh air and sunshine. The only furniture in the room was the bed and an old wooden bookcase we’d found in the garage when we moved into the house.
My mother brought me gauzy blue curtains for my windows, and she gave me a massive potted plant in a plastic tub that I placed atop the old wooden bookshelf beside my bed. I was still trapped in a hateful marriage with a hateful man, but I had my own little oasis in the desert.
If I wasn’t so lonely and terrified, I could almost have been happy.
The morning after placing my newly acquired potted plant onto the bookshelf adjacent to my bed, I woke up to sunlight flooding my bedroom. Outside, it was a beautiful day. I opened my eyes.
There was a slug on the side of the flower pot. It had crawled from somewhere within my plant or its soil and was parked on the plastic pot, halfway from the top. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so lonely. There was another living creature in the room — no offense to the potted plant — one that had a heartbeat and maybe even a soul.
My new friend showed up every morning before I woke up. He was there on the side of the plastic pot before I opened my eyes each day.
While I was at work, he would retreat back into the safety of the potted plant — until sometime before dawn when he would emerge again to help me greet the morning.
That slug and I lived in perfect harmony for months. I looked for him the moment I opened my eyes, and I missed him when he was tucked away for the night. I loved him in the same way that I had loved the canaries and cats I’d had as a child. I loved him the way I loved the traitorous dog sleeping across the hallway curled up against my cheating husband’s back.
It wasn’t long before my husband and I called it quits on our marriage. When I moved out of the house, I left behind all my furniture, my vinyl records, my clothes, my shoes, and my potted plant. When I returned to the house to retrieve my belongings, I discovered that my husband had changed the locks.
I replaced my clothes with secondhand jeans and t-shirts from the charity shop. I replaced my records with CDs. My mother bought me a new potted plant, but it took a long time before I stopped missing my pet slug. There was a time when he was the only friend I had in the world. He could not be replaced.
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