By Emma Gail Compton
I am allergic to oranges, but I bought one a week ago. It was the only thing I bought on my stop at the grocery store; I had a coupon for navel oranges and time enough to walk to the grocers. It was only one quarter instead of two. I intended to eat it soon after I bought it. But I never got around to it. The orange has not been moved; I think about it sometimes when I am alone.
When I go to the little corner store that only charges me one dollar and forty-five cents for coffee, I think about my orange. If it might pair well with my breakfast. When I speak to my mother, I think about my orange. If it matters at all. In the grand scheme of things, what is the real difference between an orange and a gun. When I cry, I think about my orange. I regret not allowing it to be eaten, to fulfill its life, making it sit on my dresser in a purgatory I created for myself.
I have forced this orange to remain in agony on my dresser because I am lazy. Or perhaps because I enjoy control. Maybe I want it to feel pain, to suffer, to rot from the inside out. Perhaps the greatest joy of all would be watching my orange collect blue mold on its once beautiful rind. The color I chose it for fading into a duller poison. The juice and youth I considered carefully when I chose it, now missing.
Is it ethical to allow food to rot, even if you no longer want it? Even if eating it could kill you?
For a long time, I ate oranges despite the itching in my throat. My mother packed them in my lunchbox all through elementary school. I told her I didn’t like them. But I guess she didn’t hear me. I was a good daughter— not a single orange slice was ever returned to her. And I never woke her up with my vomiting.
Now as I stand in front of my dresser, I stare at my orange. It is next to a small mirror that catches the light perfectly. Yellows and whites drowning papers and jewelry in sticky sweet honey. The light from the mirror shines onto the dark amber rind. The spoiled fruit displays itself before me. I reach out and grab it, running my fingers over its skin, inspecting it. The skin that sat on the surface of the dresser is flat now. The aged skin has sagged in on itself. It is more fragile than I thought it would be. I think about biting through the surface. I imagine how the juice would burst into my face and drip down my jaw.
Instead, I walk it to the corner of the room and throw it into the trash. The lid shuts over it, hiding it from the light of the sun. The orange will no longer glisten, tempting me, but I am safer now. I am calm.
I will go to the store soon for strawberries. I will buy them full price. I will love them. I will create a home that is safe for me. I will create peace.