It was a humid summer, charged with electricity. Swollen thunderclouds rumbled in the distant sky every night, and Anita fell in love with the way Hakim peeled an orange.
“I’m looking for citrus,” she told him.
The heat made the carpenter bees fat and slow, and Anita craved mimosas with ice for Sunday mornings on her apartment’s small patio. She had met Hakim at the farmer’s market before and liked the look of him: his fruit stand with the colorful sign, his jeans covered in orchard dirt.
"These oranges are wonderful," he said, rolling one in his hands, loosening the peel. He had dirt pressed into the small lines of his knuckles. She wondered if an orchardist washed his hands in good loam like soap, spiced with fragrant roots and amandine apple seeds.
He unpeeled; the rind fell from the fruit as if his fingernails were scalpels. He separated each swollen node from the other, spilling not a drop of juice. Every portion was a world of its own in his careful fingers, caught in the mid-morning sunlight: a globe, a living thing struck through with delicate white veins. Did she see one of them pulse, as if with its own tiny heartbeat?
Hakim offered her a piece. The flavor was sparkling: not citrus, but sweet champagne.
"I'll take them all," she said.
He laughed. “There’s a whole orchard where that came from,” he said. “Maybe you should visit, sometime.” He overflowed a paper bag with oranges and wrote his phone number on one of them.
Anita had been reduced to her separate parts by men before, but smashed, too. While she couldn't say a man had ever left her whole, maybe this one—with hands exacting as a surgeon, with fingers so gentle on the soft bodies of fruit—could leave undamaged the most delicate veins in her heart.
And maybe, if she was lucky, strike her through with lightning.
KELSEY K. LARSON lives in the greater Seattle area. Her work has been seen in The Vignette Review, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, Poplorish, and Saxifrage.