Seren Kilig :: “she named the plants after her exes.”

She told me she was a cultivator first, a lover second, and maybe that’s why she always preferred flowers over chocolates as a gift. In her over-two-decades’ worth of existence on Earth, she never had a relationship last longer than the cut flowers her dates would give her. Except one, we both supposed.

Her apartment was populated with plants—all grown with the care and affection she never gave their namesakes. I asked her if she planned on naming one after me. She smiled then; lips crooked, eyes twinkling, as if she already had a list in her head of which genera of succulent matched my jawline.

The Burro’s Tail that hung above the television was named Aria. They met at a yard sale. Aria had eyes like mine: dark brown and dangerously astute. They bonded over Aria’s fascination with classic horror films. Each 5-star review on her letterboxd was attached to a faux documentary that bordered on snuff, and their last date was spent watching a man’s abdomen get inverted. She bought the Burro’s Tail from the same yard sale she snatched up Aria, and she told me on my first visit to her apartment that if I tried hard enough, I could smell blood on its leaves.

An Aloe Vera named Katie sat in the kitchen, picked apart and miserable. I learned its name after burning my hand on the electric stove. Katie was beautiful, kind. Her voice lulled people to be just as gentle. She was nothing med school valued. Their lives became intertwined in a waiting room. Katie was hungry for an excuse to change her career path. She was hunting for a fool soft enough to cut open. Her memory had been bad since childhood, but she began to learn—don’t have unsafe sex, turn off the stove when not in use, water the Aloe Vera, and don’t expect a lover to do the same.

In the bedroom, Ginger the Eve’s Needle reminded her every night that some people bloomed faster than plants. Ginger realized he was a man after their first and only night together. She barely considered him an ex. After our first night together, I told her that Ginger was a cactus, not a succulent. She said that every label a botanist gave a plant was fake, and that she was not exclusionary when it came to her love of plants. Though, she did have her preferences.

It was hard not to remember them all. Each of their terracotta pots were labeled. The only nameless one was the most recent—a Jade Plant that she rescued from the family moving out of 14B. Its leaves were already shriveling. I knew from what she had told me that it was in need of something. From her, I knew which camera tricks Burro’s Tails considered cheap scares, which chemical compounds Aloe Veras always mixed up on their practice tests, and how scared Eve’s Needles looked when they realized they made a mistake. And I knew she was a cultivator first and a lover second, but I never knew her name. I knew Aria, and Katie, and Ginger, and Jez, and Casey, and Levi, and all their botanical nomenclature. She kept her own name out of sight, never uttered or penned down inside the apartment walls, because after all these years, she must have realized there was nothing more intimate and more dangerous to give someone than her name.

I told her I was a writer. She asked me if I planned on writing about her.


Seren Kilig (any/siya) is a Tibatib plant. Native to the Philippines, they have been replanted in North American soil, where they continue to create art. As with any uprooted, Earth-loving specimen, they call for the liberation of Palestine, Sudan, and those who continue to suffer from the toxins of imperialism, colonialism, and genocide. They encourage you to do the same. Seren has received writing fellowships from Periplus, Lambda Literary, and Roots. Wounds. Words. (among others). In their free time, they attempt challenge runs of video games. Collect mushrooms with them on social media @/SerenKilig or their website,