Z ate the orange before the orange could eat him. That’s just the way the earth spins. Give a bushel a leaf’s length and those fruit will ripen into you. Swell and soften their skin against your cheek. Zest your eyelids, clutch your teeth with pulp, make your mouth into a stained-glass mosaic. My parents would tell you I didn’t mean to bury him, them. But I did. I really did.
I stole my makeup routine. Began the performance in my thirties after I started sleeping with cismen. You could say I was a virgin mimosa until, yada yada, sparkling cider was supplemented with champagne. Whatever to that metaphor. And okay, maybe “stole” is inaccurate. Tyrell broke cosmetics down for me. He taught me paint by the numbers and freestyle evenings. He ushered me into his realm after waiting years for me to party alongside him.
“Now, raccoon dog or cat eye?” he asked one afternoon last year, charcoal wand in hand in our shared living room. I’d made some realizations and also realized I needed his expertise.
“Feline suggests claws, but tanukis are bold, too, even if in a next morning sort of way. That’s a dog who can climb. Neither of them needs a fire brigade.”
“Wolf,” I’d replied, but then said I’d accept his best judgment. He knew I was ready to shield my face at least twice a month, pull a mask over the bare. I didn’t want the men from the apps to recognize me in my regular life. Needed to keep my anonymity fresh-faced at the bagel shop. You know, when you scruff up—dress and emote androgynously—men only see you as a curiosity if they see you at all. Meet your baseball cap-shaded eyes with theirs. Give you the nod. Why is this such a comfort?
“Fabulous might be a stretch,” he told me, “but you’ll be fierce.” I wanted him to say “ferocious.” I wanted him to say someone who everyone asks to walk them home at night. Maybe someone strangers hurry to avoid. Not just someone who walks at all hours anyway because their muscles ache for the sweat and chill of a wind-altered moonscape.
I hear pomegranate trees grow down south in an old copper mining town closer to the border than this snow-capped Arizona mountain. I hear birds collect rubies there. Compete for the biggest pile of jewels. Maybe that’s just humans. On the apps, I see everyone, so many people searching for a crown.
Z couldn’t handle red romance even when it bled over him in the four weeks of our courtship. Couldn’t stop his nails from piercing his string of arils. Clutch. Clutch. Spill. With him, I was hot and I was ice. I apologized for my switchback feelings by buying him grocery bags filled with straight-from-the-source vitamins.
I’d avoided this kind of intimacy for years because I’d been afraid of losing any bit of freedom. Tyrell and I’d bantered back and forth about it in between psychoanalyzing contestants on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, as well as speculating about the show’s producers, and viewers who take the shows at face value. A seasonal routine for us. One of my favorites, if I’m honest—our psychoanalysis of the spectacle of Hollywood courtship, not examining my own storyline. I love maintaining my own schedule, my own body, not coordinating my binging with anyone. It took a while to realize I was also caught in fear chains. But what free-range queer increases their chances of assault and pregnancy if the risk isn’t necessary? If attraction can be found elsewhere? That had been my reasoning. And I preferred hot cocoa over alcohol.
But then my mid-twenties came and went. I heated. From cold (unfeeling) to tepid (huh) to warm (rom com tutorials, smut poetry) to suddenly sitting on a dick. I can’t pretend to know the weather for next year but more records could be broken. Funny. Tyrell and I have even more to discuss now.
Apricot. Peach fuzzy. Plum. Cherry. Red of raspberry. Patch of blackberry. Z grew. Z brambled in the crate I nudged him into. I lost interest. I tell my lovers I want them fruity. And I, an animal on the roam. Do I carry my lovers through endozoochory or epizoochory? Gut or fur? Just how many times can I google if precum contains sperm?
I made fruit salad of the man. Of Z. He ate the orange but it came with a whole grove, two orchards, and berry fields. He juiced enough for a swimming pool I’d never sip. I broke the fear chains, and I’m still here. I’m just not a fan of fruit salad. All those melons and berries swapping spit.
Reece Gritzmacher lives among ponderosa pines in Flagstaff, Arizona, but grew up in Portland, Oregon. Their poetry and prose has appeared on Poets.org, Sundog Lit, Another Chicago Magazine, tiny wren lit, and elsewhere. They hold an MFA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University.