I do not find my Christmas Cactus beautiful. When my boyfriend and I bought this Christmas Cactus, its arms were stiff, cute, plastic-looking, window-worthy. But the plant hasn’t grown symmetrically. One side is higher than the other now. And the more I think about symmetry the harder it is for me to ignore. I have brainwashed myself with lefts matching rights, with tops matching bottoms. “Beauty is about ease,” my aunt used to say. I have brainwashed myself with that idea too. I look at one side of a thing—a car, a computer, my boyfriend’s thighs—and hope for the ease of it matching its counterpart.
I write this as an apology to you, Christmas Cactus. I do not find the Grand Canyon beautiful either; its reds and oranges look better through a camera lens, with the contrast bumped up, with its reality obscured. I wear socks of an unfashionable length to cover the bumpy scar on my left ankle and the cut on my right that I’d carved to match. I never gave my mother the Valentine’s Day card I made her in third grade because one curve of the paper heart swooped more than the other and I played that compulsive game of trimming and trimming each side for symmetry until there wasn’t any surface area left for sentiment.
I can guess your fate, Christmas Cactus. Last month I repotted my Christmas Cactus. I screwed it out of its pot into a deeper one. I planted it at an angle so the arms would look level, able to support a plate of food. But the cactus still looked wrong to me. “It’s crooked,” my boyfriend said, laughing. “Repotting’s a no-no,” my boyfriend said, laughing. My boyfriend has a symmetrical smile.
I have tried to wean myself off symmetry like I weaned myself off Xanax. My mother has a lopsided face she’s proud of. I’ve been spending more time with her. She’s taught me a lot about pickling. She mostly pickles red onions. I was very unfamiliar with the topic. It’s important to slice the onions thinly. Natural sweeteners are best. All you really need is water and vinegar. The onions turn the gentlest pink.
If you were greener, Christmas Cactus. If you were wilder, Christmas Cactus.
Christmas Cactus seems poorly of late. This is because of my repotting. No new buds. A weak spirit. I apologize to Christmas Cactus with water, although too much water is bad for it. I treat you like an object, Christmas Cactus. How long until I dump you into that sweet orange trash can across the street?