I, the Ripened Orange
i. In the middle of the night, I awake with watery eyes from the memory of being a child. In the dream, I am peeling away at an orange and my fingers are wet and sore from digging at the rind. The citric stench of ripe childhood itches my nostrils, (but I accept it for its benign sting, because like the bared orange, vulnerability once came easily.)
I peel for you. We sit cross-legged on the floor, faces flushed with a fiery glow. I am certain that our paths have been dovetailed into one, but I am too buried in youth to know nostalgia, and all that occupies me is a star-stapled headstrong confidence of knowing [you] forever.
I cleanly break the fruit’s flesh into two and I happily give you a half, and then I realise: I have offered you half of me. I remember this moment so vividly that if I were to reach out I think I could draw it back into my chest like a jumping heartbeat — but whether it was maybe a fraction of a fortnight, six years, or ten summers ago I doubt that you’ll be able to recall. I still think about it, you know, but the essence of you has now become so lost that the only way I try to summon this impossible warmth is by (pretending) thinking of the faded shadows of your hands
across my torso;
And I think I’ve become a heretic, for the only thing I’ve really ever worshipped is that once raw radiance of mine, which has been snuff’d out like a burnt bulb that has done its time shining bright. And as I lay here, yearning for it to return, I try to hold onto the thought of us happily devouring those oranges, knowing that was the last time I ever did anything without inhibition.
(If only I’d known that most citruses sit bitterly on the tongue.)
ii. (Nothing about me is organic anymore.) I don’t think you notice but I now wear Sicilian oranges on me like an antique necklace, and I’m thinking to myself while I smile at you, “O, why have I taken you with me these years like a hex’d souvenir?” The scent sits like cling film on top of my skin and I don it like a cloak so I can sink and shrink back into my slippery sockets.
Every now and then, I stand very still in the shower, whilst my hands scratch furiously at my soul as though they are begging for it to reveal itself to others. But I’m fairly sure that if I were to shave myself down to the bone, I’d find that I’m no longer sturdy and white and that I’ve become brittle and yellow with the unwanted knowledge that condemns me to the reality that I am, in fact, my mother’s child. I’ve observed how my phalanges creak and my voice inflects the same way as hers, and with every question of yours that I respond to, I hear myself growing [painstakingly] aware that she is:
forged into my very being.
(It’s funny how even though I am defined by this hereditary infection, I am further than ever from knowing who I am.) So as I sit here with you, I find that when you ask me how I feel about myself, most of the time I simply shrug, worrying that I would take too long to think if I were to answer your questions. And as I swallow my sentences and look up to the blank ceiling, I pray to god that you are too deaf to notice that my speech has become pockmarked with jagged reprieves like bloody hangnails dragging on white silk.
It’s almost like I seem to have trouble acknowledging that the truth is: I am just a rotten pearl that has lost its childhood gleam.
(I am no longer sure of myself like I once was when I was child.)
iii. That was the last time we ever spoke, so I suppose it’s a shame that I was too focused on my own reticence, because I cannot recall much from our conversation except for this one thing you had said to me:
“When I was younger I never ̶r̶e̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ understood why my mother couldn’t remember her age, but now t̶h̶a̶t̶ I̶’m̶ o̶l̶d̶e̶r̶, it makes sense to me: I often wake up and I’m unsure whether I’m 19 o̶r̶ 2̶5̶ o̶r̶ 3̶2̶. I guess none of it really matters l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶o̶n̶c̶e̶ ̶u̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o."
I vaguely remember how after I heard this my lungs audibly deflated, hissing out breath like a punctured balloon. If I hadn’t been so occupied by the fact that all this time my diaphragm had been stretched thin like a pink gossamer parachute — I wouldn’t have forgotten to will myself to look you in the eyes, and maybe I would’ve noticed how you had a matching pair to go with mine: two lithium batteries, dead, dull and devoid of unadulterated joys.
And I don’t know if anybody has ever told you, but you have this clinical sort of objective apathy about you now that you seem to have grown comfortable inhabiting, but I am unlike you in the sense that;
Well if I am perfectly honest, I am still hungrier than ever and I’d swallow my own hard piano-key teeth if it meant I would be dealt a lucky tarot, because I almost sense that people can tell after taking one look at me that I have never stopped paying attention to how the candles on my birthday cake no longer burn as brightly as they once did.
(I’ve known knowing [once upon a time].)
This story was inspired by Kathleen Ryan's sculpture, Serpentine Foam, 2019. You can see it here- click and scroll down. The image shown has a similar subject matter.
Felicity Ye is an 18-year-old Chinese Australian writer based in Sydney. She has been shortlisted for the Hachette Australia Prize for Young Writers and has read her work for the National Young Writers’ Festival. She is a bonafide matcha fanatic and likes to hang out with her kleptomaniac corgi, Kiwi.
The Ekphrastic Review
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