On the table before Iulia stood a pineapple. Practically speaking, it was an ordinary piece of fruit, but for her at that moment, it seemed to hold magical properties. She touched its rough scales, and tugged at one of the leaves in the center, which immediately gave way and popped out into her hand. The best part of it, though, was the smell. When she sniffed it, the warm and sweet odor seemed to envelop her. She closed her eyes and could see the rusty red soil of Hawaii.
Iulia decided to try the same thing with a sprig of cilantro. She rummaged in the fridge, and brought it to her lips. There it was, all crushed green leaves, tomatoes and peppers and verdant summer. Could there be anything lovelier?
The doorbell rang; it was Tanya. "My car is not working, I’m pulling up to your driveway to park it for a bit, devochka."
"That’s fine," murmured Iulia, still in her pineapple reverie. She tried to explain what she was feeling to Tanya. "See," she said, "This pineapple, I can smell it. Isn’t it wonderful." Tanya laughed raucously and slapped her on the back. "Just get me a cup of coffee, girl," she answered, "then you can make love to your pineapple all you want."
The two women sat, chatting, and Iulia got brave enough to bring out the poem that she wanted to share. "Tanya, " she said, "This is a poem about a leaf, let’s read it together."
"Devchonka," said Tanya, "I write poetry all the time. I can tell you that when a poet writes about leaves, he has ulterior motives in mind."
This was not what Iulia wanted to hear, at the moment. She held the poem protectively, and then there was a knock at the door. Tanya answered the door. Iulia heard the voice of a man.
At the sound, all of the occupants of the house scurried to their bedrooms, like a family of cockroaches when the light is turned on in the kitchen at midnight.
Iulia was sitting on the floor, rocking, when Tanya came to the door. "Come out," said her friend, laughing. But not only could Iulia not come out, her mouth would not form words. The pineapple lay on the floor beside her while she rocked. She tried to concentrate on the white lumps of texture on the wall, and to breathe through the panic. She knew that her behavior was not rational. But the waves of emotion that scalded her were real. She could not yet handle the presence of a man in the house.
Not yet, because of what had happened here. Because she had allowed another man into her home, whose fractured mind had exploded into million tiny shards in her soul. And the results of the drama that had unfolded between the two of them, had altered dozens of lives.Hearing the voice of any man, evoked memories of the terror, the fear, the confusion, the madness. It was too near for her to bear, especially now that all of her senses were re-awakening. She could not hold the scent of fruit, and the thought of a man, in the same mind, all at one time.
She did not think about whose fault it was, but only how frightening it had been. How he had laughed, while he was twisting her arm and telling her how easy it would be to snap it. How angry he had been if he perceived any disobedience; but his anger had been almost easier to bear, than the laughter... It was just altogether too much for her to process at once, but she didn’t know how to express this to Tanya.
Iulia did not know how long she sat there, until she heard Tanya’s voice on the phone. "I’m sorry, devchonka," she said. "That was my mechanic, coming to fix my car. I thought maybe we could have dinner together. I told him that you are a good cook. I didn’t realize ... I won’t do it again."
It would be a while before Iulia was able to explain it all to Tanya, but in the meantime, the delicious idea of the pineapple had begun teasing her, drawing her onward, to a place inside of her that she did not yet know existed.
A dreamless sleep falls from the shimmering leaves. --Sappho fragment, tr. Andrew Bellon I changed, thickened, ...
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