Katherine La Mantia “Vines”
My mother always tried half-heartedly to beat back the kudzu that found a home on the brick of our house. She insisted it would damage the roof shingles once it finally wormed its way in there, but I liked how it looked reaching across our porch and climbing up the windows. I imagined that one day I would see a little green leaf poking out from my windowsill or between the floorboards. I don’t think I would mind. I would let it take over, grow over the walls and the ceiling. I would live in a house of vines.
The vines turned to bleak, bare stalks in the winter. That’s when my mother would strike with a rake and hedge clippers. Maybe she didn’t know, or maybe she did, but kudzu is one of those things you have to pull up by the roots to get rid of. It goes deep into the Earth and anchors itself there, deeper even than the foundations of our house. I’ve seen a lot of them. Early skeletons. They dig up the dirt around the footprint of the building to keep things like this from happening, to get rid of all the rooted things, but they must have missed the kudzu plant. Missed it, or nature found a way, blowing a seed into the minuscule gap between the gravel in the garden and the bricks.
Kudzu is an invasive species, brought over from Japan. They had good intentions, I’m sure, but Americans don’t know how to handle it like the Japanese. They make cakes and tonics and paper; we just watch it grow. It twists around tree trunks and branches, stealing sunlight and carbon dioxide. It’s a quiet massacre. I passed whole kudzu forests on the way to school, a green ivy blanket draped over every pine and oak. I sat at the edge of it once. You can’t go any further than that or you’ll fall straight through the ivy floor, and I didn’t know how deep it was. So I sat and watched the stillness. I wondered if the trees beneath the canopy were still clinging to a last bit of life, if the kudzu left open some shafts of light.
My worries sprout up from under me like kudzu from the soil, coiling around me higher and higher until they’re up to my neck, where they choke the life out of me. And I could stop them, but I can’t. Vines only grow with stillness, I know, but I can’t find the will to move, and eventually they entangle me so much that I couldn’t if I wanted to. Which I do. Desperately, I do want to, but the vines, they whisper to me about what lies beyond. If I move, I’ll fall through a hole in the floor or step out into an abyss. I’ll be alone, without any vines, even, for company, or worse, I’d find that they were all around. Trapped in a house of vines.