Every day, when she walked from her second bus down the four dirty blocks to school, she looked for it. To see it still there, still struggling and still alive, was a daily relief. She had first noticed the plant the week after the end of the rainy season, and the day after they painted the curb. The bright yellow paint was such a novelty that her eyes followed the stripe of the curb for her whole walk. And that was what made her notice it - a bloom of waxy green leaves thrusting out from a crack in the curb. It was a reminder of the jungle, the wild that had been subdued for their sprawling concrete and soot city. The curb painters had splashed half the plant with thick yellow.
She couldn't decide if the plant was a good sign, for in a way it represented the city's deterioration. But she found its tenacity a relief, nonetheless.
One day, a frown took root on her face as she approached the plant, which grew two blocks from the bus stop and just below the the speed limit sign that everyone ignored. Sitting on the curb, next to the plant, was a dirty teenage boy. His back curved into a bony half moon under his thin t-shirt, and he rested his elbows on his knees. The plant was hidden between them, caught between his legs. She thrust her lip out in a frowning pout and did not break her stride.
He was there again, in exactly the same pose, the next morning, and again the following day, a Friday. On that third day, she slowed, pondering him, wondering if he had chosen the plant as his anchor, or if it were a coincidence. She heard him whispering. Her feet dragged along the sidewalk.
"You, girl," he said without turning. "What do you want?"
"Me? Nothing," she said, startled, and quickened her steps to pass him.
"Have it your way. But don't worry. I won't hurt it. I want to help it."
"Help it?" She repeated. She paused, and looked around nervously. She knew always to be on the lookout for the strange, which could so easily become the violent.
"Of course. Help this 'rubber tree' sprout. The colonizer's name, of course, named only for its commodity, but it will do."
"Oh. How are you helping it?"
For the first time he turned to look at her. He had skin just a little darker than her own, with a broad flat nose and almond eyes that angled upwards, following his cheekbones. He was handsome, she admitted.
"Singing to it. You wouldn't understand. But I could change that."
"You're right, I don't. Listen, I have to get to school. I go home another way, so-"
"I know. I will see you another morning.
"You will be here Monday?"
"Is that how it goes? Any way, I will be here. We are spinning a spirit web, Inxitha and I, and it will take time."
She raised her eyebrows and walked on. A moment passed.
"I could teach you," he called softly to her back. She kept walking.
Continued at Part 2