The woman sitting behind the card table seemed lonely to me.
On the table in front of her were seven or eight cactus. Each one was about four inches tall, shaped like an upside down tear drop. They were in clear plastic cups with striated, rainbow-colored sand.
I rode my bicycle to the flea market at the Sunrise Drive-Inn Theater, so I must have been around fourteen or fifteen years old. I wasn’t looking for a cactus, but I felt bad for the woman selling them.
So I bought a cactus.
It couldn’t have cost more than two dollars. I rode home with it in a plastic bag, like a fish from a carnival.
Over the years the cactus grew. Pieces of it broke off and I stuck them in pots of soil, usually from the back yard. They grew and grew. I gave some to friends. And when I moved they came with me.
When I traveled cross-country, I left them with family and friends who happily gave them back to me when I got home.
If I knew I was going to have the cactus and its off spring for most of my life, I would have given them all names.
A couple of weeks ago I made some potholders and my cactus was the model.
I thought I knew my cactus well. But once I draw something, I get to know it in a particular way. Because you really have to look at something, get to know it, to draw it. And since making those drawings of the cactus on the potholders, I feel even closer to my cactus.
Today I took some Polaroids of my cactus and it’s family. Portraits, I would call them, of as one reader put it, an old prickly friend.