Lemons

From the backyard of the house where you used to live, you liked to sneak into the neighbors’ garden. There was only a termite-riddled plank gate between yours and theirs, and it was flimsy enough for your skinny body to wriggle through the cracks. Somehow it felt like adventure—the dull pink scratches smeared across your arms, splinters on your sleeves, the pounding in your head as you hugged the wall behind their lemon tree. I was too scared to accompany you, but at the end of each escape, you returned to where you thought you belonged. Eventually you grew too large to slip away. But you still could pull the lemons from their tree and squeeze the juice into your mouth and mine until we gagged, tongues curling into our throats. It didn’t take you very long to begin to label belonging as myth. There were so many cities, so many people, and so many ways to leave them. Evade the claustrophobia of presence. Spend a decade, a few months, a week, the years loosening like baby teeth; drive through with the certainty required for a painless dive through water. Adjust the old caver’s motto: leave nothing but photos; kill nothing but time. Take nothing but lemons (for when life won’t give you lemons, you must figure out how to steal them). You had lost the bruises on your knees, the scrapes from the dusty concrete of our former playgrounds only faded scars, yet you still possessed a penchant for petty theft. I didn’t want to comment on it, but the last time we met, there were so many stolen lemons on your countertop, and you’d forgotten how they got there. I watched you rearrange them, apologizing, so I could have room to drink the citron tea you’d made for me. Flustered, you said you were going to water your lemon tree—a diseased collection of sticks and molding roots—but the window was open and I heard you muttering to yourself I am enough, I am enough over and over again, and I snuck out through your back gate because it sounded like you were going to cry and I wouldn’t have known where to put my hands to fix it. On a walk this evening I tried practicing it, the chant, like you knew a secret I didn’t, like it would have performed a little magic, enough, enough, enough, enough enoughenough, until the word became a tangle of guttural static. Do you believe it would have worked for someone else? I only saw the sky darken as it normally did. The shadows on the house walls fossilizing, more solid than the stucco and brick. The wide open singing emptiness of cloudless space turning throaty. Shifting to the black of a closed mouth.
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