DISPATCHES FROM THE PROZAC RABBIT HOLE: The Rose of Jericho, and Coming Back to Life

The Rose of Jericho is a strange one. It’s called a resurrection plant. If you order one in the mail, it will rattle out into the light, dried up and brown, a miniature tumbleweed.
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Rebecca Jane Stokes
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The Rose of Jericho is a strange one. It’s called a resurrection plant. If you order one in the mail, it will rattle out into the light, dried up and brown, a miniature tumbleweed.

I order a shit-ton of plants in the mail. Mostly air plants -- they are having a moment. The last one I bought arrived today in a strange envelope. It was from Japan and claimed that inside it held a cell phone case. It didn’t. I ripped open the top and the plant rolled out onto my lap like an earwig. I yelped. 

The Rose of Jericho is a strange one. It’s called a resurrection plant. If you order one in the mail like I did, it will rattle out into the light, dried up and brown, a miniature tumbleweed. But left sitting in an inch of water, it unfurls. It changes colors. It transforms into this lush, green thing. It gives off the smell of clean mud. Shut up, you know exactly what I mean. It’s the sort of plant that inspires you to festoon it with lights or ornaments, the way you’d do with the tree that’s pretty much its opposite in every way, the evergreen.

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I’m unfurled like the Rose myself these days. My default state of wizened, safe sleep shucked off. I don’t feel raw, so much as tingly and nervous. I did not expect to be awake this long. I do not know what to do with this green time. I think about having a one night stand or two just to have the experience. I hate it when writers do that though, just DO something to talk about having done it -- what a fake, small, flat way of viewing life. In the end, I don’t fuck a stranger. Instead what I do is go on a series of fine-to-awful first dates.

I wonder, as I try to sound firm in my goodbye, if the random sex wouldn’t be less draining. I wouldn’t have to pretend to care about getting to know someone. I wouldn’t have to worry and fret over whether or not they were getting to know me. Neither of us would exist in the future for each other. We’d just be sweaty straining and maybe someone would cum and then life could go on -- connection had and nothing more hoped for. 

I know I can do that. I know that my body can take control. I know that I am capable. I can never see someone again. I can forget a name, a face. That’s why I don’t get dolled up and troll for ass in bars these days: Because I’ve already done that, and while dicks come in a vast array of jaunty personalities, if that’s the “experience” I’m after, I’ve had it, and I’ll take my magic wand and rolling over without that itch or social obligation.

When the Rose of Jericho has sucked up all the water it needs, you’re supposed to let it dry back out until it returns to this thing that looks like fossilized clod of earth. It’s biologically designed to survive without water for months, some of them can go for years. I pop mine in a bowl the day it arrives and I sit it next to my computer while I work. I brush away the cats who are mesmerized by it, and I pause to snap a picture of it: The whole thing, its awakening, happens much more quickly than I expected, but still slowly enough that the magic moment, the instant it reveals what it really is, this unexpected, strange, leafy thing, is impossible to capture. You just look up, and suddenly it’s there.

I was going to take up knitting. “Or felting,” I said to a friend. “I could make felt toys.” If ‘cellar door’ is the most beautiful pair of words on the planet, ‘felt toys’ might be the ugliest. Try saying them out loud. It’s like a basement farted. They're dusty, sad words. I didn’t take up knitting. I didn’t get further than “how to felt maybe” on Google before I abandoned the dream of that hobby. Instead, I bought more plants and I started building these little terrariums. I collect small things, rocks, broken locks, earrings I find on the street. Now they have a place. I stick them in sand beside a plant and the whole effect is whimsical, magical. 

I don’t put the Rose of Jericho in a terrarium. It’s going to stay in its bowl. I don’t give it a home. I will move it around with me as I go room to room.

The plants aren’t the only hobby. I’ve started wearing makeup again. I can’t remember the last time I did it for myself. I can remember the last time I wore it for someone else vividly and it makes me squirm with shame and embarrassment. So I won’t think about it anymore. So I’ll let it go, because I think being a bit kinder to myself might do me good. 

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I’d forgotten that you can buy a new burgundy colored mascara by YSL and feel excited about it, not worried you’re going to look silly or pathetic or like a try-hard. I watch a lot of tutorials online (Biba-inspired ’70s looks! Twiggy’s Mod Eyes!) and then spend too much time trying to imitate them. I don’t look like Twiggy, I look a little bit like a member of a Swedish Black Metal band. I don’t look like a Biba model, I look like maybe I have tuberculosis. 

It’s not the look I want, but I poke and prod at my face. I cover it with new potions. I highlight. I contour, I darken, I lighten, I conceal. I keep painting my face in a new way like maybe I’m going to be different when I’m done. Like maybe I’ll be a version of myself that I recognize instead of the tiny, brown desiccated ball, rattling around an envelope, waiting for water, waiting to demonstrate its strange talent for waiting around for years at a stretch. In the end, I return to the red lips that have always made me feel the most my fiery self.

I hate my face. I hate that I hate my poor innocent face. I can love my legs at times, and I can thoroughly get behind my ass when the spirit moves me, but I cannot bring myself to love my face. Maybe it’s not hate -- maybe I resent it. My face doesn’t seem to show me as I feel I am. Who I am unfurls once every decade for a brief shining moment thanks to care, luck, and ample hydration. I’m looking at the plant and I’m trying to escape the metaphor but it’s staring back at me from a bowl usually filled with oatmeal. “Who are you even doing it for?” Yeah. It’s Monday and I’m already addressing fucking plants. This augurs nothing good.

The plant doesn’t say anything back to me. Thank God. If you do a cursory search on YouTube you’ll find multiple ladies teaching you spells you can incant over the Rose of Jericho, curses, voodoo, and prayers. I can see where the urge comes from, it’s a contemplative thing, watching something dead come to life. I’ve got a couple of people I could curse I guess, a few spells I’d like to cast, some prayers to say. But I don’t do that, instead I just look at the plant, keeping my eyes wide open, trying not to blink. I want to capture the moment it closes. I want to see it happen. I want to see if it makes things any clearer. 

We open up for such a brief time, us sensitive, silly, dark, weird women. I want to use the time well, to flourish, while never forgetting that surviving the drought is what I am designed to do.