My Pineapple Roommate
The only scent a rose may come to envy is a pineapple on the vine in the east facing window of a 3rd floor apartment. Confident and exotic, the plant announces itself before being seen, owns its space, and was the first plant I ever purchased a weapon to defend myself, my skin, the corner of my eyes.
I expected nothing from the supermarket pineapple crown I twisted off and dropped in a glass of water. It soon produced translucent threads, little fishing lines reaching through the water. Using a jelly jar for a crystal ball, I plainly saw my aunt young again and remembering my name, sitting spread eagle on the kitchen floor playing jacks with organic material. A petalled vine crawled through sparkling black flour piled on a newspaper between her thighs. She picked it up like a mechanic and screwed it into fresh perlite and compost and it would firework green, red, white from a washed milk container overnight. Watching her behind my mother’s back was my first lesson in the fealty of secrets. She’d alight on each of my mom’s potted plants and with white nails sharpened over years of her children’s pimples, would cleanly slice lengths of vine, leaves and wrap them in wet paper towels and smuggle them between her breasts to a windowsill in Los Angeles.
If she cared visit me, she would have find waiting in my living room a huge spiked behemoth reaching well across the room with its belt-thick leaves with spiked points bearing tiny ridged teeth. The leaves surprised me being dense and sturdy as weaving material. In response to its occupying my living space, I bought shears, pruning it back into a buzz cut. In response, it produced a floral head from its reddened stem, as if to ask who are you and what are you doing.
The red flowers swelled like tiny frogs and farted perfume. Its neck arched and bulged out throwing itself off balance until I leaned it against the window like a napping toddler. allowing it to endugle in as much sun as it and I could stand.
It got to the point I wondered if I were supposed to get it laid, um, pollenated. Should I have left all the windows open while i worked, or leave it on the back patio of my building overnight in the rain or for a week or two in spring?
Should I have bought a hand-basket, biked the thing down to my local watering hole, put a U-lock on it to sway thieving hipsters and let the bees and insects have their way? Turns out pineapples prefer the company of hummingbirds and bats, but still. Can’t you see me being wing-manned by a bromeliad? Isn’t that what the bro is for? Sitting in front of a bar in a bike helmet and a half-finished pint, being That Hood Douche who brings his potted pineapple to Baggy’s or Golden Bull or Smitty’s? That’s exactly the kind of story they publish in the New Yorker or force you to read in college and you wonder what stoned MFA student or revered short story god came up with this shit then got it published.
The pineapple has been deleted from history. It just appeared spontaneously, without evolutionary explanation or UFO sighting. There’s no reference in the bible, — on the seventh day God did not indulge in a pineapple smoothie, apparently. There’s no reference to whether it sat with the water and wine in the wedding Jesus attended, neither was it provided nor banned during any feast. It is not in the Odyssey or Iliad, was not drooled over by King Louis and neither did Shakespeare, inventor of dozens of words, ever assume to create the simple compound poetry of pine-apple, nor placing it on the wandering tongue of even his most mad monologists. In fact, if I shared here a factoid that the first dinosaurs were killed not by asteroid, but by a mis-identified, falling pineapple, you couldn’t completely disprove it. You don’t realize how heavy that damn thing is.
I don’t speak to plants but this pineapple was the first I ever named. Once it sent up a periscopic stalk and inflated its crown of flowers, the thing grew big as a softball, and leaned to the right like Negan in the Walking Dead. William F Buckley, too, I suppose but what millennial would give a broken Nintendo cartridge for Buckley or even care who he was? My Negan grew his own barbed wire bat in leaves. After reading on line that turning the plant to its side is a good thing, Negan had already worked it out. I came home one night and saw the plant fully leaned to its right and it wasn’t until I palmed it that i realized how heavy and burdened it was. I built a modest platform for it using a wire hanger and carefully stacked milk crates.
It grew to a fine size despite the insufficient dirt it was planted in. I had no appropriate container, no larger space, and stubbornly insisted it remain in its original pot, me having no idea how big it might get or, despite being unable to transplant it, if i was supposed to nudge it along somehow.
After reading how ethylene gas is a delicious vapor for the plant, I shared with it a farmer’s market apple. I cut half an apple and lay the slices across the soil as if decorating a cake with playing cards. Then I took the remaining half apple and placed it like a pillow beneath the natal queen. What might you have done? The gas turned the pineapple yellow as corn, its lorica turning from grocery store green and brown to golden yellow, its cologne growing more pronounced.
During a lull in conversation, I revealed to a friend what I’d been doing and she looked as if she might evacuate her body.
I thought it was one of those grade school experiments, I said while she swept fragments of her shattered jaw off the tabletop between us. Like, you know, how every kindergartener knows how to root half a potato on their windowsill or something.
You’re… growing… a pineapple… inside… your apartment…
Well, yeah. It like my apartment has its own ecosystem. I imagined coming home from work my apartment vibrating from a squadron of howler monkeys and cicadas.
After coffee, I imagined what she imagined was happening in my apartment. I returned home, glanced at it, its stocky sweet smelling baseball with a huge piercing crown. Where it lay on the apple, I saw was beginning to brown with sugar. Where it umbilically attached, its vine was beginning to turn papery white. I palmed it, twisted gently and it rolled over in my hand. Heavy, tight, mini-pumpkin it looked. Familiar alien. I sliced into it, feeling a little guilty. But it had been two years. I cut the outer skin, made a triangle slice and placed it on my tongue. It was like learning to kiss. That initial uncertain tenderness of first allowing a mouth onto yours, tasting a tongue that tasted you back equally, curiously. It seemed an erotic miracle, full of juice running along my fingers and lips. Its perfume overpowering and dense. The flavor a bit mild, not as pungent and distinct as its musk.
I read a pineapple plant will produce one fruit, then die. It was so old and huge and awkward despite the leaves cut back, I felt ready to replace it and determine to do better next time. The remaining plant was thick and long as a spinal cord. As if in ceremony, I took it to the compost bin and turned the pot over. I struggled several minutes to release it.
My fears were true. The dirt was consigned to the surface like a blanket, while all along the bottom its roots had gone sentient and knitted tight cables against and around the container desperately pushing, reaching, starving. However much water I’d given it still wasn’t enough. The roots were bony and frustrated and I nearly wept, apologetic. I asked its forgiveness and promised next time to do better. There will be a next time. Growing a pineapple indoors is far easier than I expected, and its just a two year commitment.