Scenes from an Unwritten Memoir

by Ashley Sronce

If there was one thing I knew about grown-ups it was this: They had houseplants.

Bent on asserting myself as a grown-up, I trekked up to 169th and Broadway to the Anthony Flower Shop.

To a kneeling, grumbling, and potted-plant fussing man, I announced that I wanted to make a singular purchase. I wanted a beautiful flowering specimen that was user friendly. “It’s my first houseplant!” I disclosed.

He gathered himself and led me to a large leaf-plumed pot. Bursting from the center of the waxy foliage was an eight-inch bloom. It looked not unlike a dragon. Though pink, its teeth gnarled and bared. I was unnerved, but game.

Assured of the minimal requirements, I was charged seventy-five bucks, and sent on my way.

I could not have guessed the ensuing weeks would be so fraught with disquiet.

The ugly beautiful bloom would move its body. I wouldn’t condemn a plant for movement and likely knew this was within the realm of possibility. Though the movement was broad and curious, it did not appear to reach for the sun radiating through the southwestern windows. Nor did it appear to shy away.

It seemed to reach for—me.

As I walked through the bedroom and back, it would limp and claw in my direction, like a possessed sock puppet. As I peered, naked, from the bathroom post-shower, I locked into its intense countenance and decided to dress in the side hallway.

I didn’t want it watching me in any state of compromised nudity.

I began to take my meals standing up, beyond its line of sight at the far corner of my kitchen, with German cockroaches keeping me comparatively pleasant company.

“God! What do you want?” I would snarl.

The sentient bromeliad wanted my tuna noodles.

It wasn’t a happy marriage.

When the time came for a long-awaited yoga retreat, I pulled my chin up and with stout heart watered the hell out of the infernal thing.

“I’ll be back in ten days. BE GOOD. Okay? Be good.”

Upon my return, I was met with a gruesome scene. The precocious plant was drooped and gray.

In a panic I drew a jug of water and poured.

“Oh! Oh no! Please! Please be okay!”

It was the saddest thing.

Over the course of several douse-filled days it became clear—I had killed this genuine creature.

I had watered, scolded, and scorned it to death.

It is, and will always be, an eerie weight on my heart.

I entered his apartment in Chicken Alley. It was a bazaar of collections—Christmas tinsel garlands and blow molds of lambs, Santas, and Wise Men. Copper pots of all sizes hooked up to brass hoses. Styrofoam packing blocks arranged in a grid adorned the ceiling.

“That’s the spaceship.” He noticed me staring up in bewilderment. “I found all that in the Ingles dumpster.” He leaned against an improbable pool table. All six feet seven inches of him draped along the siding as he lit a cigarette.

I was frozen. I was so in love.

“Come here.” He curled his hand toward his chin.

“Come here.” More of a demand.

I’d encountered this giant man several times around town. The first time he was in disguise as his alter ego—Dirty Tony Martini. He was performing Hank Williams at a local Karaoke night. Fred’s Speakeasy. I was both transfixed and repulsed. Repulsion attraction. He wore a blond, mod, bob wig and pink tinted sunglasses.

“The recipe is top secret.” He ladled out a deep pour of his Christmas soup into a tin bowl.

“Thank you!” I stared into the bowl. The broth was crimson. There were several bones jutting about. There was a singed sprig of pine? Pine tree.

“Is this a sprig of pine?”

“Mmmmmhmmmm. Christmas stew. Hey, you know, don’t eat the berries.”

“Holly berries? Ooohhhh! Yes. Wow!!”

I took a sip. It tasted sweet like cough syrup. This was inedible. I took another sip determined to be gracious. I watched him tend to the butane camping stove. My heart burst. He didn’t have a sink. He didn’t have a kitchen. Just a plywood table in the corner of the loft. It’s worth mentioning he didn’t have an official bathroom either. He showered at the YMCA. I wondered about the hygienic hazards before me, but only for a moment. I took another sip.


“This soup is mind blowing. You’re amazing!”

I was madly in love.

“I’ve made soup ever since I was a kid. I’d go out in my backyard and find ingredients. That’s local cooking you know what I mean? Mmmmmhmmm.”


I thought I’d be sick. But I kept sipping. My face reddened with both nausea and desire. I had never loved a person more. He would be my husband if life were worth living at all. I would help him forage for pine sprigs and holly berries. I’d rummage through any dumpster for Styrofoam to add to his spaceship.

I’d die to do it.

“Hey. Hey. Hey. I mean I really respect you.”

I’d made it to his bed! It was the greatest achievement of my life!

But it was taking a tragic turn.

“I just don’t think this is a good idea. You know what I’m saying?”

“No! I don’t know!”

My sheer lamé dress puddled at my feet. This couldn’t be happening. I’d come so far in my seduction. To be rejected now? Naked? Just standing there? A dream turned nightmare. I know I slumped to my knees and started crying. The opposite of hot. A piteous mess of a move.

“WHY?” I do believe I wailed.

“Because…I’m…I’m a womanizer.”

“Womanize me! WOMANIZE ME!!!”

“Nah. Like I said, I really respect you.” He pulled up his pants. I bawled harder and louder.

“Don’t respect me!!! PLEASE!” This was the true nadir.

“Come on. Get up. Let’s have a smoke.”

I would never recover. Why wasn’t I womanizable? I was a woman. Dammit. I loved him so much. He could do or be anything! He could be a quadriplegic, snaggle-toothed, Machiavellian with six eyes. A collector of used Q-tips. A man named—Vincent. I would love him no matter! I wouldn’t even expect him to stop being the amazing, glorious, grandiose womanizer that he was.

It was 2002 and I was broad-minded.

I pulled myself up and struggled back into the lamé. I followed him to the pool table like a sad duck.

He lit up and gazed upon me with what could not be experienced as anything less than compassion.

“Come on. Come here, girl. You know you’re my girrrrrrrrrl.”

I sniffled on over and leaned beside him. My heart in my bowels.

He handed me a smoke.

“Did I ever show you Death Race 2000?” He readjusted his belt. “With David Carradine? Man, it is the best movie. Ever.”

Shut the fuck up. I have the flu. Don’t talk to me! I want to die. Fuck. Oh! I want to die. Death would be more charitable than this sniffling, aching, chilling, baking, throbbing Hell. Don’t say a word to me. Just kill me! Fuck.

I’m in Jodhpur with my extroverted idiot boyfriend. We managed to roam the fort. I’ve got to go back to bed. I’ve got to walk to get there.

I still fucking love the blueness of it all. Blue houses, shops, temples. Rhapsody in fucking BLUE.

If he responds to one more “American?” I’ll murder him. I give him the look. The look that a partner of four years KNOWS and UNDERSTANDS.


“Excuse me? American?”


“Come inside! For tea! Please come!!!! Come! With wife!!!”

I am not his wife.

Had I not been dying I would still have been incensed by the assumed manipulation:

* Come pay forty-nine dollars for a Tarot reading from my uncle.
* Come give many dollars for this piece of string that has been blessed by the Milk Baba.
* Come inside my home so that I can charge you for an obligatory boathouse rental in Kashmir. * Come inside because I hate Americans in general. And—for good reason!
* Come inside because—you’d be better off dead.

Looking at pictures of his children. “He is at MIT! Engineer!” I’m barely impressed, though I sense I should be.

“Your wife is sick?”

“Yes, she has the flu.”

I hate you. I’m not your wife. I need to be in bed. You morons!!! Kill me. God dammit!!!

“Sit! Sit down!” The unwanted host flails an arm toward the blue sofa. At least it’s adjacent to the front door.

He shuffles down the hall, slips away...

We sit on the sofa. I am sliding into my plasma. I am burning with loathing for my obsequious boyfriend.

Who will ever protect me? Not this guy.

The man now appears running full blast, wild eyed, down the hallway back toward us. His arm is reaching forward. His index and middle finger are clobbered with orange gloop. The furious smell of Tiger Balm leads his way.

He is upon me. Upon my fear-popped eyeballs. He has smeared the Tiger Balm across my whites, my irises.

He has murdered me. Just as I had thought he would!

Just as I had wanted?

My boyfriend is rigid with naive surprise.

The man cajoles, “It’s good! It’s good! The medicine! She will cry the poison out! She will cry the sickness out!!!”

I screamed.

A threshold of pain maintained. Burning blind. Brain seared with cajuput, mint, clove, and cassia oil. Tears streaming like Angel Devil Falls.

For one sustained hour and a half I was married to a degree of torture that could barely support consciousness.

Then, at once, with the snap of a collective menagerie of blue-fingered deities—the pain was gone.

My fever was gone.

My body was absolved of all afflictions. I was better.

I’m sick again, ten years later.

By my bed is a tiny tub of Tiger Balm. I could end it all with one fell scoop and swoosh. Eyes wide open.

But I don’t.

Ashley Sronce was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina. She enjoys filling her days with furious contemplation and loving on her dogs—Magic and Moose. This is her second piece to appear in The Great Smokies Review.