Your mom used to grow oranges in the backyard. Satsumas, blood oranges, Clementines, Mandarins, sometimes after work I’d drive down to Courtland where you, your parents, and Freddy used to live (whenever you run into Freddy, please give him my regards, I miss that “mangy mutt”). When I’m not thinking about oranges, and by that, I mean the feel of the waxy cratered skin on my palms and the way the soft resistant pith digs up under my fingernails, not just the word, oranges, by itself, I think of them as summer fruit even though they’re at their most ripe during winter. It was your mom who told me that winter was the best time to eat oranges. On the day I asked if she was alright with my marrying you, it was oranges that we spent the afternoon talking about instead. When to grow them. How to look after them. When to eat them. How difficult it is to make a living selling them. In some ways, I want to think that she was trying to articulate a metaphor about the kind of marriage that I was trying to plan, giving me that tired and clichéd old-world immigrant knowledge, elliptical objective correlatives, life is a box of chocolates bullshit, but maybe she wasn’t. Both of you had always been the literal type. You say what you mean and when you don’t know how to say something, or you can’t mean what you say, you don’t say it at all. I’ve thought over and over about what she said that day. Maybe she really was just talking about oranges as they were or still are. Even now, here in this apartment, I can look outside my window and see the ring of fat Satsuma’s dragging the limb of the neighbor’s orange tree down over the fence and into my side of the yard, and I’m not reminded of that day, sitting on the front porch of your family’s old mini-Victorian drinking hot brandied coffee; it always puzzled me how with all the land your dad owned, that he’d choose to build such a tiny house for the three of you. You and he had gone up to Sacramento to give away some of Freddy’s litter while I stayed behind, with your mom, to replace the brakes on the old Toyota that you’d load the backseat with stolen Sunkist cardboard boxes to take to the farmer’s market in Sacramento, December through February. I want to marry your Jenny, I told her. She was standing in the doorway and looking down the dirt road connecting the property with the levee She held the coffee pot in one hand and a tray with cups in the other. When I look into the neighbor’s yard and see their Satsumas, with their bulging sepals so much like the shape of your nipple, anchored by their stalks, back into their branches, I think of the waxy cratered skin on my palms and the way the soft resistant pith digs up under my fingernails, not just the word, oranges, by itself, and not anything else. Not even your name.
"History … is the version of the victors. The history books are slanted in favor of the successful conquerors. Literature, on the other hand, documents the version of the conquered. I’m on the side of literature."
"Getting what you want has to do with holding it in your mind so strongly that you keep returning to it—without thinking—so that you are always linked to it."
The Vision of Emma Blau by Ursula Hegi.