Clementine

Pulling apart tiny segments of peeled citrus, I picture jelly-candy oranges, their simplified, stylized shapes so pleasing to tiny hands, the clean bite leaving long rows of teeth marks in their smooth, perfected centers. Juice seeps through the napkin and I worry, briefly, about the wooden desk beneath the paper — but orange oil, good for wood, no? — but the acid, bad for wood, no? — and then I remember accidentally slicing into a wooden table my first week in a new place, in a space that would later be yours. And I think of you, smiling and shaking your head at me. Which didn’t happen then, but happened many times after that. No one knew I’d done it, except for one person, and she never told. I was so protected there. When I think of that time I forget the rage, the fear, the abject humiliation. The tears. I remember warmth and grace, and a protection that seems incredible, in hindsight. I try to eat the segments slowly, but each taste is a shock: so full, so bright, so sweet, so tart, and I want to be overwhelmed by all of it. Instead I let each piece overtake me, or two or three at once, and I remember.