The brightness of summer filled up all empty spaces. It left no room for speech.

Ada began spending nearly all her time outside in direct sunlight, working from a small metal table close enough to the cafe for the wifi to reach. She had been taking regular walking breaks in the flat & treeless borough, but now spent any free moment motionless in her chair, arms outstretched and palms up on the table, uncovered by the cafe's small blue awning.

The two worked remotely, Michelle at home and Ada at the cafe, and as she noticed this change in Ada, Michelle took to walking as well. It was an activity she’d never been interested in but which gave her the opportunity to surreptitiously check on her wife from across the street. Always carrying sunscreen in case Ada looked burnt, but she never did. Her skin browned and freckled as the days passed.

Their conversations at home had become infrequent and emotional. Long silences broken by Ada's fierce lectures weaving together politics, sustainability, & bodily autonomy into a dim view of the future…

“It’s awesome that we give celebrities eco-friendly & durable organic products (bowls & plates, cutting boards, appliances, silverware) made from natural materials so that they can offset the ludicrously high fossil fuel expenditures of their flights everywhere - at a rate of like, one flight to four trillion lightweight reusable straws, bamboo toothbrushes, or BPA-free water bottles. All while exporting and selling products of industrial mining and global-southern slavery. Quartz yonic eggs and semiprecious chakra-enhancing gems torn from the earth by children who will die poisoned by exported western pollutants before their tenth birthdays.”

Eventually Michelle, exhausted, would say something like:

“That’s not something I can fix. I don’t know what you want me to do about that.”

And Ada wouldn’t huff or sigh the way she used to early in their relationship, but would walk into the next room and sit in the beige armchair by their apartment’s east-facing window, and stay like that.

Michelle found her there occasionally in the early morning, eyes half lidded gazing through the window at their heavily trafficked street. The two lived near a busy intersection in a large city. The noise would drift up, and Ada would flinch and mumble and eventually fall silent until a tire screech, engine roar, or blast from a horn startled her awake. 

For a while Michelle would wake her in the morning and sit on the floor by the chair, apologizing for not listening well the night before. But each day her wife had less to say, and the weight of each word became miserable to them both. The quiet grew, and Michelle went about her business, avoiding the living room except to bring Ada food, which she picked at apathetically; and water, which she hungrily sipped each evening until a wet spot began to spread from the seat of the chair. Michelle felt sad and annoyed about these two new inverted developments: the excision of a loving & mutually dependent - if fraught - relationship, and the addition of a creature requiring upkeep.

Friends and family came with cylindrical plastic containers of stew and microwavable bags of frozen vegetables. They sat with Michelle in the kitchen on the other side of the house and spoke about the situation quietly, to preclude eavesdropping, though Ada had ceased reacting to speech. A cousin haltingly mentioned the small roots that had grown from Ada’s ankles and woven themselves into the orange wool carpet, and Michelle pretended to have already noticed them, though she hadn’t.

That night, after the cousin departed, Michelle examined the roots, which were pale and thin, appearing unhealthy. Not knowing what to do, she downloaded an app called PlantID and uploaded a photograph of Ada in an attempt to identify the species, but received an error message stating that the plant’s leaves must be present to facilitate identification.

She wandered around the house mornings and evenings and spoke half to herself. Ada's only outward response to stimulus consisted of steadily and very slowly leaning toward the window during the morning and early afternoon, then sinking back slightly as the evening turned to night.

Out running errands, Michelle ran into friends, all of whom seemed to have consulted one another before choosing to adopt the same concerned and puzzled demeanor. One took her aside and told her they thought Ada was regressing emotionally as a result of trauma. Another acquaintance pretended to have not yet heard the news, then responded: “That’s so strange. She doesn’t seem like the type of person who would do this. I’ve never heard of anyone turning into a plant.”

Ada, meanwhile, was dreaming. Some dreams she remembered and some she forgot, but in each she was aware of an internal self that was dark and filled with the overwhelming scent of soil and rain. The outer self slowly warmed. Michelle thought she could detect minute dream-movements. Twitching eyelids with leaflike veins. But then again, she supposed, she’d never felt very good at reading Ada.

A series of meetings with Michelle’s boss, whose compassion had diminished over time, finally resulted in an indefinite leave of absence. Now Michelle puttered around the apartment during the day and found herself utilizing few of the household objects she and Ada had meticulously researched and sourced from responsible makers: she often ate off the table (eschewing their hand-thrown & -fired stoneware plates) with her hands, dirtying no bamboo utensils, drinking each day from the same water glass, which she also used to water Ada.

Tendrils had become thick roots wedging through cracks in the floorboards. Torso and neck smoothed into a delicate curve as Ada’s sternum, clavicles, and ribs receded. Her arms had at first been folded on her lap, then hung limply at her sides, but now splayed out; what had once been fingers adventitiously wavering in different parts of the room, respirating. Michelle avoided these air roots when she came to sit with Ada and play her music from her phone, something she’d begun doing after reading online that it could improve the health of plants.

Initially she played soothing ambient music, Brian Eno and Mort Garson and William Basinski, but felt guilty about nodding off while ostensibly “spending time” with her wife, and she eventually settled on an album she remembered Ada mentioning early in their relationship: “Quarantine” by Laurel Halo. She played the album from her phone while messaging friends and watching videos, the sounds of which would briefly interrupt the music, and each time she’d flinch and cast a sideways look at Ada, who didn’t react.

She bought potting soil and piled it on the carpet on top of Ada’s rotting sneakers. This is where she’d pour the water, hoping none seeped through to the apartment below.

Some of Ada’s air roots folded inward at the ends, turning brown. Dark granules appeared. Noticing this development, Michelle looked up local colleges with botany departments and contacted the professors. 

“My wife has become a plant, and she’s ill,” she said.

“I have a lot to do here at the college,” one replied. “Perhaps there's an on-call botanist at a hospital near you.”

Another responded, “Are you certain she’s really a plant and not merely sitting still, perhaps wearing green clothing?”

“Yes, she's definitely become a plant.”

“Well, I’ve never heard of anything like that. Could she be lying?”

Frustrated, Michelle took several close-up photographs of Ada with her iPhone and walked to a nearby plant store. An old woman stood like a mannequin by the counter while spigots sprayed mist over shelves of potted herbs and flowers.

The woman laughed when she saw the photographs. “The brown is pollen; those are anthers. This plant is ready to impregnate another of its species.”

Later, crouched by the chair and Ada's humid body, Michelle scrolled through videos on Instagram of people attaching electrodes to plant leaves to detect micro-voltage fluctuations. Some of these people ran the wires into synthesizers and used the minute electrical changes to modify sounds. The plants buzzed and warbled but, Michelle thought, the electrical signals they sent out were really just lines on a 2D graph. Numbers that rose and fell in response to humidity, light, and stress. Everything else, the bleeping and the oscillation, was fanciful.

That night Michelle dreamt she was buried under Ada’s roots and was being absorbed by them. Her sole purpose had become sustaining Ada. Above, in the sunlight, a crowd gathered to listen while Ada spoke; not with words but by emitting a scent, generating oxygen, reflecting and swallowing light with leaves that tipped and curled. She grew new leaves, and their vein patterns were examined with great interest. And the toxins from Michelle’s body, the microplastics and chemicals in her blood, were carried up through the roots into their shared stalks, and carried away by wind when their flowers opened.

In the morning, Michelle came into the room and knelt by Ada’s side in the soil. Small mushrooms had grown there overnight. More silent creatures. More unknowable wives.