Before I knew that lavender calmed my nerves and cold wood floors warmed my tummy, something grew in me. The size of a blueberry.
Before I was ripe, my sixteen-year-old body sat in a fruit bowl, too bitter to eat, too hard to soften for the things a child needs. I found out about the differences between ‘girl’ and ‘woman’ young. On a Friday the 13th, there’s a vague memory of a woman handing me pamphlets for a few dismal options. Even now, twelve years later, the cross-shaped positive is still symbolic.
“You have to do this” mother said.
I hated her for never asking me what I thought, or what my favorite berries were, or for never explaining the birds and the bees.
“Are you sure this is what you want?” the faceless memory of a nurse asks me.
I’m not sure, but I’d like the vomiting to stop.
The room was bright. Fluorescent. It felt like a regular checkup, except for the sound and IV. The sound: an angry swarm of bees, deafening. Maybe it was meant to distract, but I think that was me projecting. I focused on the blue dots on my gown. Blueberry dots.
Seven weeks: the size of a blueberry.
The dark New England winter has moved into my apartment, an unwanted resident that seeps through the outdated furnaces. I now have to get avocados imported to welcome sun into my home, it’s easier than exposing the space to a warmth that’s never really there.
I sometimes feel bad about eating them in the winter. But I’ve become addicted. I insert my knife into the top and glide the fruit around in a circular motion as the blade separates the textured skin to reveal a green type of heaven. One side, absent. The other, a bulging seed. I take joy in the moments where I drive the sharp edge of the knife into the core, twisting and freeing it from its one purpose: providing life.
We don’t speak anymore.
I’ve driven wedges of blades in between many things to scorch the burn. Like eye-contact. Or knowing what I want, how to want, not saying what I mean, feeling joy when its received.
Father moved to Texas—separating fruit from loins is a difficult process, but he managed well. Mastered it, actually.
When I see father daughter dances at weddings I sneak to the bar and order an extra martini. When I think of inventions, like telephones or planes, I wonder how he never found out about their practicalities.
I can rely on some things. Like the assurance that avocados are green in the middle, sometimes yellow. They always have pits that are ripped out before enjoyment. I stopped making guacamole years ago. I hated salvaging the seed to keep the aesthetic. When air dims the fruits vibrancy, it turns color. I was tired of taking a spoon to the insides and stirring in the bad with the good. I stopped buying lemons to preserve perfection.
I get far too excited when bosc pears are on sale at Whole Foods. And equally as disappointed when the flesh is so hard my gums bleed onto the fruit. Once, my mother packed me a lunch of a bagel, yogurt, and pear. I was told, by Mrs. Reinhardt, that this snack was too large for a first-grader at recess. What she meant to say was, “You are too large for a first-grader.”
I choose one snack, the bagel.
My body, moving up from the floor, is a journey I take daily. The mirror displays points of consideration and grabbing and frowning and contorting—another thing I blame the winter for. I menstruated early, my first week of 6th grade. Ms. Ramirez, my Phys Ed teacher, said,
“Get used to it. Be outside in five.”
I slowly began bourgeoning at the hips—bleeding, fucking—coming to terms with that which will never be. Taking measuring tapes to my waist like my happiness or human experience depends on numbers. Each woman must fall in love with what she is not. Another thing they don’t tell us when we’re young.
But men enjoy telling me I’m curvy and that’s sexy.
Women tell me I’m a pear, which is better than an apple. We agree.
The child bearing makes sure I’m aware that my hips are well suited, that I’m made for this thing. And what about when the inners of my thighs touch, making a perfect line in between each limb and changing the way my day goes?
I wish that pears were compasses were toes; so, all the imaginary could be boiled into compote. Or juiced, for for breakfast, on a cleanse. Would I lose weight then?breakfast, on a cleanse. Would I lose weight then?
I grate my tongue on my teeth to remove the imaginary fuzz. Allergic? Possibly. I once read in 10 Ways to Make your Vagina Taste Delicious that this is what people wanted. By people I mean men—but I don’t sleep with men anymore.
“Do you miss it?” my girlfriend asks.
The acidic striping of my taste buds tells me I don’t. It always felt like a show—a charade of sorts. A dimly lit world where mattresses became bowls and they hardened as I forced myself to mold into them.
I didn’t hate men, they did however, represent the unknown parts of myself. The masculinity that also feels like a phantom that lives in my sheets—but I have always been a masochist for love.
I consume pineapples for snacks now, reminiscing on a time when I ate citrus for pheromones. My relationship to nature feels like walking barefoot on stones—I prop myself on tip toes to avoid the sharp pain in the soft middle of my sole.
My girlfriend and I now use this fruit as a safety word. We scream “Pineapple!” when the other has gone too far.
I will say my boundaries have become blurred. I use this word when I feel like breaking. Setting fire to anything. Offering imaginary casualties. Left to define clarity. Bastardizing myself.
The sun shines through and casts a form on the counter that reminds me of a shadow world, one I don’t go to anymore. I think of California. I taste street lights and the particles that circle dance in its cone. I buy a Big Stick from the ice cream truck and search for the flavor hidden in fructose. I’m dissatisfied by shape and girth. So, I turn to coconut pops and bite the sides until it hurts.
I blocked my mother on all devices. I knew she was dying but I couldn’t manage the voicemails any longer, the drawn-out slur of her voice changed entirely in those last few years. You know, the tone that’s glazed over only by medication and loneliness.
I saw her on Mother’s Day once and she asked for a blender, she wanted to make her own smoothies because they were cold, soothing. I couldn’t manage to hug her. The things that connected us had evolved, like my belly button inverted deep within my gut and her womb was enveloped by the mass.
I scarcely recall holidays, but I do remember the cranberry sauce always sat like a ribbed log in the crystal dish. When I was little, I thought my mother spent the time carving each line and shaping the sauce to be designed in uniform. I was disappointed when I saw her open the can and plop out the slippery, crimson tradition. Now, I mourn the things that we weren’t to one another.
She wasn’t an artist like I hoped for.
And I wasn’t a good little girl. I thrashed in department store aisles for toys I never actually wanted. I wasn’t a ballerina that treaded lightly across platforms—but I was always a performer. She didn’t like that, it scared her and summoned the lost years of her youth. I always agitated my mother, now I know why. I represented a life lost.
I do often wonder if I made this all up, like the cranberry sauce, or the holes in the wall. The tart aftertaste of my childhood reminds me that my life is lucid, an ethereal hell of creaking houses and loud television sets. In moments I’d find myself walking, almost suspended, in pitch black nights. Moving through phantasms, drawing curtains back to uncloak the various masks I hid behind.
In friends, I formed a tribe—several occasions brought them braving my childhood for me and the things I could no longer see, no longer touch. I sent them to the hospital to let me know how serious it was. When they asked her if she wanted anything she sent them for cranberry juice: her dying wish.
After serious deliberation, I decided to fly to her, bid her a fond farewell. I arrived at the moment of hollow breathing and slippage into the next level of consciousness.
All I use cranberry juice for now is a palette cleanser after the tequila shots. I use this for the reasons to stay up and avoid silence, cleansing my system of toxins I inherited and equally caused.
When I hear the word liver, I cringe. When I drive past the bogs, flooding, I hope for a good harvest.
Sometime, early on, I became convinced that my mother was the woman on the front of the miniature Sunmaid raisin box. They had the same flowing hair, falling just past their shoulders and cascading in front of them like billowing ribbons. They both glowed when they smiled and held the same impenetrable eyes, undetectable and refined.
Now, as I am one year and seven months from thirty, I understand the infinity of growing old. I imagine myself as recycled clay. Formed into this year, grabbed by another and shaped into that one—but where is the kiln? Where is the sun that dries the grapes?
My hair is just as long and my skin, seemingly, has defied the touch of age. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t fear it, if I didn’t allow my gaze to melt into the ceiling and pretend my reincarnation was a controlled process. A fever that darts in the waking night—shaken by a full bladder and a disoriented view of what it means to be woman, what it means to be this alive.
I search for dehydrated fruit. I want the memorialization of freezing something at its best point. The raisin is sweeter than the grape. It may have lost its juice, its bounce and the way it pops in your moth when you bite on it. The raisin contains its own mystery, like the wisdom of its age is a growth that so many will never see.
I canvas my wardrobe just hoping to immortalize my own image or send it into a virtual state. But in a perfect world: I am timeless. I glide in frocks and bonnets, suspenders and petticoats, skinny jeans and crop tops, and I am as happy as any son-of-a-bitch ever was. Ironically enough, I am still a grape.