Sliced Oranges

We met at a wedding. We sat next to each other, both lost in a sea of colour and celebration. Me in an oversized Hugo Boss suit, and a gingham tie; she in a simple black suit with a white blouse. When the bride and groom came we both toasted them with a shared smile. The last thing we ate was sliced oranges. I spat the pips out politely into the red napkin, and scrunched the napkin into a ball on the plate.

Our mothers decided to attend the nearby casino for the night. We decided to make our own way home. But it was too early, so we agreed to catch a movie instead. As we walked together through the city streets, all I could think of was drawing her black hair over her ears, kissing her there at the point where the lobe meets the neck, and on her lips, touching her hand, taking mine and exploring her skin beneath her woollen jacket.

We sat at the back of the Odeon, two nervous teenagers with elbows glancing — my tie now stuffed in my breast pocket. Back then you were allowed to smoke in cinemas. But I didn’t have any with me. So I sat and breathed in the heady mix of drifting second-hand smoke and her ambivalent perfume in the reflected glow of the screen, thinking how and when to seize my moment.

We would communicate later with letters — there were no text messages or emails in those days. They would arrive weekly. I would read them twice in my room before sealing my desperate, messy reply and running to the post box. We exchanged gifts. She sent me a little purple book full of friendship quotes. We spoke on the phone, had meetings over coffee. Neither of us committing to anything. I guess she was just as shit scared as I was. This was all before they diagnosed me with anything.

We didn’t speak for months. But I thought about her every day. Then one morning I called her from the psychiatric ward. The phone’s black coil extending from its yellow body rested against my bandaged wrists as I told her I was sorry I didn’t call earlier. I stood in the hallway holding the mouthpiece close so she would not hear the passing trolley being pushed by the white-haired woman with the swollen ankles, afraid the rattling cups would somehow give me away.

She said it was okay, she was at university now, and things were going well. But I didn’t know what to say. Should I have said that I just tried to kill myself and fucked it up? That it wasn’t her, it was me? That it was life and all the bastards who had ruined it? That it was mom and dad who fucked it up because somebody had fucked it up for them? That it was everything that had preceded that moment over sliced oranges at the restaurant, or that movie in the smokey dark; before the friendship quotes, and before the kiss that never happened? That the only kiss I really desired was Death’s. That I obsessed over its sweet, cloying taste; that I longed for its everlasting intoxication, and wanted nothing but to sleep a dreamless sleep of eternal nothingness? I didn’t know how to tell her any of that, so I just said I was happy for her. And that we must stay in touch. We never spoke again.

Image: Slices by Lindsey Turner / CC BY

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24 thoughts on “Sliced Oranges

    1. This is one of those rare autobiographical pieces. Everything happened — as much as I can remember, down to the orange slices and smokey cinema. Not much imagination required for that one, just emotion.

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      1. On the contrary, it came quite easy. Time and distance gives us the luxury of objectivity. I wrote it more to describe an experience than become involved within it. The dark thoughts are still dark but they have lost their power. 🙂

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  1. What a sophisticated teenager (I mean the wedding and cinema bits) I love the detail in your recollection – was it emotionally taxing to write this? I wrote a deeply personal 3000 word essay late last year and while I felt really disconnected from it while writing it, it did affect me for many months after. I hope you’re ok.

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    1. Not sure it was sophistication so much as desperation that guided me back then! I had the hyper-real autobiographies of Karl Ove Knausgard in mind while writing this (have you read them?) Wasn’t emotionally taxing. I’m in a good, happy place now. And it was such a long time ago. These moments feel like they happened to someone else.

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      1. Thanks so much David – your comment makes me smile. Breaking news- I start a writing course on monday. Not the one I was recently talking of doing – that (a dip in professional writing and editing) is still on the maybe cards for next year – but a 3rd draft novel and script writing course at the end of which I’ll have a polished turning point of my novel (1 of the 7 turning points). I’m excited! It will be a challenge and a welcome return to my dusty novel 😊

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      2. You kept that quiet! Sounds exciting. Is this the novel you started during NaNo? Good luck with it all. Please update us as you go. I’ll impatiently await further news. 🙂

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      3. You mean the novel or the course? The course was a surprise decision fo me too…I only decided to do it lasy week after being do sure I wouldn’t be doing it as I’d already donr the first and second draft courses and was getting a little cynical about thr industry built around peoples perhaps unrealustic dreams. Anyway…I’ve decided to do it and I’m excited…it is tge sane Novel I worked on duting NaNo, although it was first conceived about 5 years ago and I’ve created a fairly solid structure through the courses. What I have now are 7 turning points, each broken down into sequences and scenes. The course I’m about to do will gocus on the actual writing, working with an editor for the course duration. I’ve written a bit about my novel under the caregory ‘I’m writing a novel’

        I really appreciate your support and encouragement. Thank you 😊

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      4. The course. I knew about your novel, but didn’t know you were taking courses, and that it had advanced so much. Well done, sounds like encouraging progress. 🙂 I must have missed your posts on the updates, and will catch up on those. Sounds like this an idea born of passion that I’m sure will emerge beautifully soon. Always a pleasure, Mek. 🙂

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      5. Haha oh ok. Yes, advanced in structure but early days in the writing aside from exploratory scenes as part of course work, and the 50k words last November which will largely go out the window (kill your darlings as they say). Probably more a case of the very sporadic posting on the topic…I may not have posted about my novel since we connected, except on the topic of NaNo. I might dredge up some muck from NaNo tomorrow and edit and post in celebration of my return to it…Thanks David.

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