Tuesday, October 25, 2011

First Snow

A short story:

The apartment was old, the floorboards creaked and undulated from years of gentle sagging. Rachel wandered into the kitchen. Her bare feet touched the cool floor, pressing softly into the hard surface. Each step was a potential landmine; she knew it would creak. As she reached the refrigerator, the apartment squeaked in protest. She heard the groaning with a measure of surprise. She had expected it, but not the echo throughout the tiny space.

The refrigerator door opened and light poured into the tiny kitchen, illuminating the funky gas range-top from some indeterminate past decade, the pile of dishes in the sink, the makeshift rack of mixing bowls and pans in the far corner, and the window against the back wall.

She exhaled lightly. Her jaw loosened and she bit her lip inquisitively, looking for the juice. Rachel had always characterized herself as a juice junkie; she kept at least three varieties in the fridge at any given time. As she stared at the contents, she decided she wanted something else. She let her eyes wander. Half a stick of butter, some carrots, a couple of gray blobs in tupperware, some hot sauce, and an orange.

Oranges were always around this time of year, fresh from Florida. She dug her nail into the firm flesh. She felt her nail penetrate the walls of the fruit and release a tiny spritz of citrus into the air. As she closed the fridge door she turned and looked out the window. The apartment was part of several complexes that surrounded a courtyard. The courtyard had a couple trees and a bench but nothing distinct or interesting. The night was blue-gray. The sky was cloudy and the orange glow of the city outlined the buildings opposite the courtyard. Rachel looked with peace. Her fingers idly pulled apart the orange, tearing off large chunks of flesh.

It was going to snow she thought. As if on cue, she noticed a few flakes falling. She wandered closer to the window, stepping into the glow of the night. The snow would cover the leaves that had just fallen. The snow would cover the bench that no one used. The snow would hide everything in a blanket of white. The flakes fell softly, increasing their presence. Rachel thought, it's snowing now, I wonder how much?

Her stomach fluttered briefly at the thought of not having to go to work the next day. Rachel looked at her peeled orange. It was white now, ready to be pulled apart and eaten. She set the peeled rind on the table and took her thumb and placed it at the center of the orange. She pulled the orange in half slowly, watching as the skin separated to reveal a subtle and complex pattern that shone with a deep contrast in the winter light.

Oranges, my hands are going to smell like them now, Rachel thought. She put the first part of the orange in her mouth, tasted the sweet burst of an orange in winter. She savored the fruit as the flakes falling outside became indistinguishable. She stood on her tip-toes and inhaled. Rachel listened to the apartment creak again. A shiver ran down her spine.

She put another piece of orange in her mouth. Looked around the kitchen. She realized she was in a moment; sharing something special with herself. She giggled secretively at the thought; it was ridiculous. She was so happy in the moment; she put another piece of orange in her mouth and it tasted even better. It was the best orange ever, and she had the privilege of eating it. The snow would hide all the imperfections soon.

Rachel made a mental note to turn up the heat before she crawled back into her large bed.