Flowering citrus


Flowering citrus – 1

Orange squirt, a soda, a fruit, elicits a sudden unexpected response from the back of my mouth, a wet ripe reaction to the smell of orange, the sudden demanding spray of lemon. The underside of a lemon tree provides a parasol of leaves, of warm lemon scent in lightly heated shade. Pick. This lemon is plump, skin thick and shiny under a thin dusty topcoat. I roll the lemon down the front of my jeans, roll off the light dust. Bring it back to my face. Smell. The smell of lemon is umbilical, so unlike furniture polish or dishwashing lemon that I hold it against my face – lemon peel pressed against my nose, my lips, my chin, and inhale as if it were vapor. Cut. The juices burn the many small wounds on my rough 10-year-old hands, rough from digging, and climbing, and jumping out of trees into a world of wood and dirt and citrus smells, rough from being out of range, from living wild in cultivated orange and lemon groves, near a small farmhouse, a fruit stand, an old brown dog with a limp, a piece of fruit, a pile of polished rocks. Rolling the lemon against my face, there it is, like magic. I wipe my hands on my worn cotton shirt, so that I might smell it again later, when I undress tonight. 

 

Flowering citrus – 2

“Lemon meringue pie?” she asks, eyebrows up, pen in hand.

“Nah. I don’t like meringue much. What else you got?” I can’t help being distracted, worrying about the car, motor running, out in the parking lot.

“Has to be lemon?” she says, good humor intact.

“Has to be lemon,” I agree, forcing my eyes to stay on her face. Car’s still there; that’s an article of faith.

“We got lemon sherbet?” she suggests.

“Rather have lemon tarts, got any of those?” I counter. I see Michael out the corner of my eye, walking casually across the gift shop and to the cash register, where the camera stares at the bill of his baseball cap.

“Usually we do, but we’re out. They’re not very good anyway,” she says, confidentially. I laugh.

“Okay. How’s about those lemon wafer cookies, you got those, right?”

“Probably. You’ll have to go to the gift shop, over by the candy section. We don’t have them in the diner. You want a coffee to go with that?” She’s relaxed, no fears, no early warning signs. My confidence is up.

“How about lemon drops, I like them. Got those?” I’m starting to stare, I can tell, and her eyes come up to mine all of a sudden like she’s just heard me speaking a foreign language.

“Sure. Yeah, we got lemon drops. In the candy section, kinda by where the lemon wafer cookies are.” I can see her strain through this. Her pen is still up, but hanging funny, like a question mark. She pockets her order book and says “I’ll get that coffee. Be right back.” The back of her uniform, walking away from me, looks uncertain, wrinkles highlighted by the fluorescent lights. Stains on the right side of her butt, where she’s been wiping her hand without thinking about it, through many uneventful shifts. Until now.

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