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! The soil in a tropical rainforest is always shaded. The dense vegetation forms
three main layers: the canopy, the understory, and the ground layer. Although 12 hours of sunlight rains on these forests daily, less than two percent of it ever reaches the ground. Trees taller than 100 feet rule as the canopy. They envelope the soil with darkness. Subordinate plants must feed on the thin slants of light that pierce through the top shield like spears. As a result, little vegetation is able to survive at ground level. Rain constitutes similar competition. Canopy trees’ roots run deep and dominate the soil. Lower level plants beg like puppies for a toy, or chicks for a meal. Thick droplets kiss lavish green leaves. The ground layer pleads for a mere sip of nourishment. Drops hug high leaves for a time before licking them and then falling off. The bottom surges with excitement like a crowd at a basketball game getting free tee-shirts thrown at them. Flora under 10 feet pray that the ﬂying desiderata crash near them. The lower plants are weird and unearthly as they adapt their growth to survive the conditions. Mostly moss resides at the very bottom of the forest. True beauty and vitality is achieved only by the shell. ! ! I tend to gaze upon plant life, indoors or outdoors. In some of my classrooms
there are medium sized plants lying around and I study their intricacies. ! The Johnson name has been at this school for six years, which is not long at all
considering that this school is cluttered with legacies. Those six years were only spent by me. Some attending students have great grandfathers who attended the school.
Peter’s last name has probably been with the College for 50 years. He has been here for 10, and his father is on The Board. Peter walks through the school with sublime conﬁdence, the stuff that makes one’s shoulders strike back and one’s back erect, that allows you to speak with anyone eye-to-eye. Everyone knew who he was. The charming legend was smart, ﬁt, Jewish, and indolent. His father had inherited his grandfather’s luxuriant company, and that grandfather had inherited his father’s, and so on. Spending minimal time in class whilst achieving ﬁne grades, Peter had lots of time, money, and energy to be spent partying. He had many girlfriends. I focused intently on my interests in academics and did not. I knew girls from my old school and camps and what not, but transferring to a prestigious all-boy school had pulled me out of those waters for the most part. I am a hard athlete; good grades never came easy for me. ! On the night of the grade 10 semiformal, I sat at my desk chair and stared at my
computer screen. Although it had been hours since my throat had desiccated when the third girl I asked kindly rejected me, I could not stop thinking about it - about it all. A blue and white Facebook page was open on my laptop. Peter had his arm around one of the best-looking teenage girls I had ever seen. Adolescence is doing her a ton of favors. They both smile, their teeth gleaming from the ﬂash. I tapped the right arrow key. Peter stood tall wearing a thin black tie and a solid black suit. Another girl has a hand on his side and he has a hand curled around her waist. I knew this girl. Since grade six I was infatuated with her; her wondrous dark hair, deep brown eyes, small comparable physique. I never had the courage to say more than “hi” to her in the past four years. She smiled as if there was no wrong in the world, and she made me believe it. I tapped
the right arrow key again and again, cueing pictures of Peter with my friends from school and their dates. They all cleaned up nicely. ! ! I launched myself out of my seat and walked to the washroom, planted my hands
on the sink and stared myself in the eye. ‘Do people see me the way I do?’ I noticed a pimple sprouting at the bottom of my chin. ‘When one records their own voice and listens to it they think they sound odd. Though when they speak to people everyday they ﬁnd their voice ﬁne. Is it the same way with our appearance? Is this mirror lying to me? We can only look at our own faces through a secondary source. Do people see that pimple and the rest of my face the way I do? I think I am an awesome guy with depth. Do others think of me the same way? I wish I was at the formal.’ I wanted to be there with my friends; I wanted to dance with my date. I don’t even like dancing. ‘How many girls do I know? I have not spoken much to any girls my age let alone asked them out. It would be easier if they existed at school.’ ! ! That which does not kill me makes me stronger, but will this deform me like the
understory plants? The strangler ﬁg needs sunlight to grow and reproduce. Seeds falling to the ground quickly die in the shaded and infertile soil of the tropical forest. So it has adapted. The strangler ﬁg seeds are deposited on branches of large trees by small rainforest creatures. The seeds sprout and send a long root to the ground allowing it to successfully compete for water and nutrients in the soil. As it matures, branches and leaves grow upwards, creating a canopy that blocks sunlight from the host tree. Additional roots are sent out and wrap around the host tree, forming a massive network
of roots that strangle and eventually kill the host. A low center of gravity renders short things difﬁcult to knock over. A tall ﬁgure has many weak points and a long way to fall. Time may not be on Peter’s side, and his habits may fail him unlike the adaptable strangler ﬁg. To ease Jonah’s discomfort, God shaded him with a leafy plant and “Jonah was very grateful.” Sometimes we do not want to be shaded, we just want to see the bright light and grow. !
I have only ever caught one free t-shirt at a ball game. It was paine white with
some bank’s logo on it. I do not know where it is now.
Why do we do this to our own kind?