lemon tree

originally published in Short Fiction Experiments, 2014


Somewhere in the night you’ve become a beacon. This is right after I find the birthmark that only appears on your shoulder under black light. When we discover that the tree next to our house, the one we’ve walked past every day without previously taking any notice, is a lemon tree. Immediately from this point I start feeling like everything in the world is amorphous in shape and sometimes sticky too.

Inside I am all pucker. I secretly wish we’d met on a crowded bus, that I’d given up my seat to a pregnant woman and that impressed you enough to get off at my stop. You want to make babies and I’m not averse to the idea but I worry that my acidity would eat it away. Instead I thirst for stories about how you’ve met women in your past. I want to be an encyclopedia of their hair colors, occupations, generosities, flaws; I want to know what drew you to them, and in those first moments, if you were starving, inebriated, anxious. Each story is cool water down my throat. I am a splinter, a hairpin.

You don’t understand why I collect these mundane details. That’s because if we were colors, you would be royal purple and I would be the grey of an old woman’s hair. I would melt in a saucer of milk.

At night the lemons thump from the tree outside our window and keep us awake. We gather some into a basket but you can only use so many lemons in a season. I imagine it would be nice to feel such a deep emotional connection to a celebrity that their loss mutilates an entire block of life already lived, like when Prince died and you spent three days crying into your childhood diary. Being an adult is really just putting things next to each other and deciding that you choose some and not the rest.

I don’t like that we can’t read a bug’s emotions from its face. Or that it doesn’t really have a face, and maybe not even emotions, it’s just we can’t help but try and impose a familiar structure. Like the eyes of a potato, or the dimples of a lemon. Like we can’t understand a thing that isn’t built as we are.