photo of clementines

Clementines by Jenny Stalter

I had lived long enough that the affair caused me no regret. No hand wringing or inner voice telling me it was wrong. But guilt was around somewhere, like that rogue sock that pops back into your life just to fuck with you, to remind you of what once was, when you had a sock for each foot. It was springtime in Canyon and clementines clung to the air. Not the scent, the whole fruit, round and orange, dozens of them floating around. But maybe I just wanted to believe that because that’s what I was holding the first time he kissed me. An entire bag of clementines.  I had planned to sit there and eat them in front of him, the whole bag, because I was so nervous and I really wanted to smoke but he hated smoking so I would peel the little oranges and it would make me taste sweet. But I never got to sit and peel and try to be sexy with juice running down my arms because he grabbed me and kissed me and whispered in my ear, “Put down the fruit.”

Maybe the clementines hanging around were phantom fruit syndrome.

 

I wondered why he would cheat on his wife with a big girl like me. I heard it described in a movie once as a desire for fullness, so maybe he was hungry. I liked thinking of myself as having the ability to inspire a need like hunger. Maybe he hungered for imperfection. Maybe I was a soft bumper for the perfectly clean edges of his life. Maybe he banged his shins on those edges. 

I knew it would end when he was full. 

“Get on your knees and lace up my boots.” The command and the smell of his brown leather boots made me ache. This is my choice, my sexual orientation is to provide sustenance. To feed from my knees.

He had finished dressing. I reached for my clothes and he said, “No. Get in the car just like that.”

 

He drove for so long we reached the navy-blue hues of night, outside town. We drove for so long I asked if he was going to murder me.

“Only in an unimportant way.”

I became more naked, somehow, after he said that.

 

He drove all the way to the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon without speaking another word and finally, with the canyon cradling us, we stopped. The stars were much less shy this far outside town. They winked at me, a sure nod to my nudity. Then he asked me if I’d ever been in the trunk of a car.

“I knew you were going to murder me.”

“It’s not like that. It’s a game. Look, it’s got a safety release lever.” He opened the trunk and the interior light revealed the escape apparatus. “Now, be a good girl and climb in.” 

The trunk light illuminated the yuccas surrounding us like a cage. I climbed in and when the trunk slammed I was shocked by the sensory deprivation. It had been dark outside but not like this. The car began to move. I caressed the lever with my fingers and the movement of the car rolling around the canyon rocked me.  Did he know that I’d chosen to feed him this opportunity? 

The car stopped and the engine cut off. Footsteps on gravel. He opened the trunk and smiled down at me, haloed in white moon like the weird image of a saint.

 

On the drive home, thousands of clementines thundered against the car, enveloping us. The moon was full. He was full.

Jenny Stalter is a writer and former private chef. Her work appears in Typehouse Literary Magazine, Eunoia Review, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Tiny Molecules, and New Flash Fiction Review. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

Lead image: “clementines” *with edits* (via Flickr user Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble)