Four Lemon Slices

Four Lemon Slices

June 24, 2014

by Aubrey Allison

What words or harder gift does the light require of me carving from the dark this difficult tree?

What place or farther peace do I almost see emerging from the night and heart of me?

"Hard Night," Christian Wiman

1. I moved from Texas to Seattle in December, and I only wanted to eat citrus. I wanted bright, sharp lemons to cut through the drizzle of winter. I found a painting by Lee Price called “Lemon Slices III” and I thought, this woman knows.

Her posture: trying to find some kind of comfort. Vulnerable. The word gutted comes to my mind.

The smell of lemon in a bathtub is clean like bleach, something to scrub away residue. Something, perhaps, that corrodes. I knew a boy who had teeth with discolored splotches of eroded enamel from biting into too many lemons when he was young.

These months have been the most challenging in my life. When things are running along smoothly enough, it’s easy to think it is profound or beautiful the way purpose comes from pain. But when you’re in this season and you’re being hollowed out, it doesn’t feel transcendent.  

2. There is the vague anxiety of being a twenty-something alone in a new city. There are also the small, specific pangs.

In May, I get tonsillitis. The doctor prescribes antibiotics, and they kill my appetite. Instead of eating, I make ginger tea. I slice open a lemon, squeeze the juice out, and use the back of a spoon to press the pulp down against the rind, scraping, emptying the entire thing into the mug. I don’t add honey. The thought of something sweet turns my stomach. I pick up the phone to call a friend. Then I put the phone back down.

I study the painting again. I wonder if she has any cuts, a small gash just above her knee; I wonder if it stings right there.  

3. The chemistry of our bodies alters a lemon. Outside the stomach, it’s acidic. Lemons will erode your tooth enamel, sting when they meet an open cut. But when digested, their acidity is reversed. They become one of the most alkaline foods you can eat.  

4. The woman will unfurl herself and when she is ready, she'll step out of the bath. She will unplug the drain and the lemons will slowly sink with the water, lower, lower, until they come to rest on the clean, white porcelain.

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