I WOULD DIE FOR YOU
we drive the hill’s curve. my mother leads me through the earth’s crest, road shaped like the hollow of a clavicle. our heels sink into the sand—before she remembers to take off her shoes—and arrive to the edge. my toes kiss the stones, jagged and jutting out of the sea. the waves peck the surface. we rise. under the shadow of the lighthouse is a fence, leaning towards the ocean spray. i zip up my sweatshirt, sharpied shoes bounding over the gaps. each lap of the water is a tongue panting, its recession an exhale. the air burns my lungs; my mother cringes each time i let go of the fence. after the sunken bunker, slowly spilling water back into the body, we see the bluffs—nature’s question mark, a dirt diver carved mid flip, a plain ascending then pausing before the sink.
years after he walked away, she finds the ring secreted at the bottom of a box. she hands me the hole, carved from onyx, lined with silver. my blue iris reflects in it, a pooling wonder. it rests in my palm. we walk the same path as our mother, climb the rocks mid-winter, inch closer. our arches shape over the boulders. she reaches into the past. i grab a strawberry from my pocket and we toss this love, from this earth, into the end of the world.
one day, i’ll bring you there. we will journey to the edge, park the car across the adirondack swing. you will wander to a stack of stones, laid by local children, and i’ll watch you from the bluff. the wind will caress my leg. the urge to bring bergamot wax to my chapped lips will be assuaged. instead, my skin will be soothed by nature’s salt scrub. my face will be held in the light, chin resting in the sun’s palm. it will be so warm there, begging to be caught in the rip tide, yearning to be swallowed whole.
Tracy Chapman pours from the speakers: louder, the cadence of careful revolution.
I wipe down the counter with a plaid rag. Some people call them ‘bar mops’, which I remember overhearing in a coffee shop. The laminated butcher block glimmers back at me. I tap my fingers on the coated wood, hands in typing position unconsciously.
The produce drawer—the crisper—squeals like a pig when I open it. Fridge door stays propped open, goosebumps rising on my forearms. I rub at the stiff hair, which all of a sudden seems visible. I think, maybe I’ll shave them again. It’s been a while. I shake my hands in front of me and lean down.
I grab the bushel of spinach, the lemon, a square of salmon encased in plastic. I turn around and put this armful onto the counter’s surface. Pivoting, I approach the scallions, the carrots like wrinkled fingers, zucchini bumpy like a conch shell. Tomatoes plump as a palm, yellow onion hair sticking up like Alfalfa. I lace my fingers through the mesh bag, lazy with soft, hard pitted fruit.
The bracelet is still there, dangling off the wrist. Faded name, laminated; a date highlighted in plastic. I press my thumb into the clip, but it won’t budge.
There, in the spice rack, I remove the salt and pepper. Dried dill. Red pepper flakes. The containers—a mix of plastic and glass— roll into the toaster oven. I place them carefully in a row. I go to the drawer and remove a fork, the meat thermometer, a vial of vinegar, and a cutting knife. I think it’s called ‘parring’, like two people thrown together. It’s funny how a single object can be defined as containing multitudes.
I place down the glass cutting board, the one that’s white with the watermelons on it. I straighten out the cutlery, stare into the perfectly placed meat, seasoning, and greens. I remember the tomatoes and cilantro, place them into the scene.
I am building an altar of what I sacrificed.
On my knees, I take a breath. Grab the glass casserole dish from the cabinet below. I place it on the counter with a soft clink.
I roll up the sleeves of my sweater. Tie up my thin hair. Wait for the water to get hot. I lather, the scent of lavender encircling my nose, and rinse my fingers under the stream.
I take the salmon first. Unwrap it gently and cradle it in my palms. I run my hands over the flesh, cleaning with the force of my knuckles. I carry it behind me and place it onto a paper towel. Let it dry in the light.
Going back to the sink, I wash my hands a second time and dry them on the towel hanging on the neck of the stainless sink. I shake any remaining water onto the floor. Standing over the cutting board, I touch my heart. Take another deep, long breath.
I wrap my fingers around the knife’s handle. Quickly, I let it go.
Washing the fruit.
Colander on the counter, and I place the vegetables into the basin. I untie the scallions, setting them free. They mingle with the tomatoes and the zucchini. The spinach bonds to the carrots, embracing the imperfections with their leaves. Stems like tantalizing fingers, pointed towards me. I peer over my shoulder at the bag on the counter. Those don’t need to be cleaned.
I chop into the scallions first, and they burst across the counter. I shuffle the pieces back onto the glass, but it doesn’t matter: they are keen on escaping. I brush a handful towards me and sprinkle them into the pan. I chop into the spinach next, pinching the wilds together with my fingers. They crunch every time the blade kisses through them. I gather the greens and place them into a bowl.
The zucchini and the carrots are placed side by side. I cut into the parallels vegetables, each wedge creating a checkerboard of orange and mint. I bring them over to reunite with the resized and chaotic display of food. I reach above me on the shelf and pull down a tiny, white bowl with scalloped edges. I cut the lemon in half, place the part I’ll save into the bowl. The citrus sunburst gazes upward. The juicer is broken—from the dollar store, now cracked in half—so I cradle the nipple of the fruit on my lifeline. Squeeze over the fish. The juice slips down into the bottom. I splash a cap of vinegar, then start to season. The flecks of dill and red pepper mingle to say Seasons Greetings! I flip the meat and it makes a wet smack. Repeat the steps, pepper crunching, salt shushing, spices chiming like a hymn.
Oven sighing, I can feel the heat against my face. It reminds me of something: running down the river, sun pouring out after a cloud passed by. Sudden warmth on my shoulders and cheeks, sweat and freckles indiscernible: serenity.
But today I worship differently. I press my hands together, the dish towel twisted between them; set a timer for twenty minutes. My feet pad on the cool tile, bare toes with short, naked nails. The hair on my legs prickle as I pace around the kitchen. Small: just enough room to take two steps in one direction, then four in the other.
I drag the crystal chalice toward me. Blow off the dust and run my hands over the ridges. I wipe the knife against my denim shorts. It leaves a water stain, like a streak of paint on a palette, fresh from the tube. I chop and I chop. The tomatoes drip juice and seeds onto the cutting board, onto the countertop. Onion smell makes my eyes water. I wipe the stream of tears against my shoulder and take a breath.
And with my fingers, I rip open the net. Let the dark skin roll across the surface. My nail digs into the stem of one: a warm green. Perfectly ripe. With the blade, I slice, and hit the core. Wave it into a sphere.
Twist, and then pull the two halves away. One is full, the other empty. A compliment. I know an easier way, but I dig deep: pull the flawless seed from the body. Some of the fruit clings to it. The pit, perfectly round, rocks in my palm. It looks like it’s made of wood. But I know if I place it into this earth, it will grow. If I delve into the soil and water it, it will blossom. If I care, it will become something.
I consider it. With my other hands, I force the avocados out of their shells. Muddle the green and red and yellow together. Extract the light-colored juice from the other lemon half.
The bracelet sticks. I grab the knife. The blade meets the space in my name, parts it quickly, and I’m free.
The timer sings, and I pull out the fish. Let it sizzle and settle on an aging rag. I gather my creation into the shape of my fingers. The flavor encircles my tongue, and even as I swallow, I can smell the citrus and green. Can colors have flavors?
I pick up the avocado seed once more. And right then, I put it into my mouth. Suck it clean. I can feel how porous it is:
Hollow, but ready, at any point, to spring.
MAURA LEE BEE is a queer, LatinX writer based out of New York City. Her work has appeared in Bad Pony, Newtown Review, and Autostraddle. Her book, Peter & the Concrete Jungle, was published in 2017 by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. When she isn't busy dismantling an otherwise oppressive system, she enjoys reading books, baking pies, and meeting new dogs. She can be found talking about books or yelling on the Internet under the handle @mauraleebee on Twitter and Instagram.