Stone Fruit by Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams
(Note: to hear Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams reading several poems and stories, click here.)
On Saturday, the woman thought of stone fruit. In her throat rapidly, the high tang of cherries. He felt very near for the first time in years, like if she turned just so—she spent all day turning.
Later, she ran water in the sink of her little white kitchen with the sagging oak floor and remembered how he’d once walked into a wall, hit it so hard they’d heard the sound from another room. His friend laughed, said, He had a bottle before he came by here. Then in walked he, dizzy. The room filled with petals, and when he made it close to where she stood by the window, petals ridiculously thick on her shoulders, he smiled, exhaled cherries.
The old, iron stoner was clamped to the edge of a heavy table. The powdery light of leafed sun did a little dance over her hands as she set a bowl beside it. Nearby, the dog scratched its ear and bit its tail. The mouse in the wall hurried about its business. She sat down and wished she had a crossword. She wished it was Sunday.
The man once had an idea about a birdcage. They were all sitting on the floor of his new house under the paintings of people who were long as shadows, and he signaled it with a hand to the mantel. A thought-cage, he called it, and gave them paper. They sat cross-legged, that night and many others, folding their secrets down until each could be passed through the bars.
The woman looked about her for something that was like a crossword, but there was nothing like a crossword anywhere. She realized that fifteen years later, the man who still lived in the house with the paintings on the wall could walk to the same mantel and pluck from a house of wire the thought she had written each night in as many syntaxes as she could fashion. Now, the dog was quiet again and so was the mouse. All the little jars stood obediently on the windowsill and if they felt empty, they didn’t show it.
After dinner and drinks with friends, he would pull up alongside her, and shout, One more! And she’d laugh as he yelled, I’ll follow you! and suddenly there were his lights in her mirror. While having one more, he’d tell the bartenders, We’re engaged, and they’d say, We could tell. When the bars closed and there were no more drinks, they would kiss until the streets of the town were a rushing upwards of saplings and the air was a shiver of weeping boughs.
The woman’s bare feet were the dusty, golden color of the oak floors. She set the first pot to boil and lifted the window sashes. From the drawer of her desk, she took some paper and a pen. The afternoon slipped by as she stoned the cherries and measured the sugar and made strips of a single thought. Her fingers were red and her mouth was red and the dog’s chin was red. Someone had told her once that the stone of the fruit comes from the ovary of its flower. She pressed hands below her belly and what else should be left but the imprint of a rough, red heart feeling its thought.
They chased each other down a long and narrow garden until they were in the tall grass at the bottom where the aquifer sang. He went this way and she went that. Then: You caught me, she told him, and he bit her lip, whispered, What if the neighbors are spying? She glanced up at the dark house next door, but he’d already let her go with a slight shove, and she was too young then to feel what she would later feel covered in the juice of cherries, that he had let her go with a slight shove. They were still laughing when the night ended, and he so cheerily called, Goodnight, Mr. Moon!
The light was bluing by the time she remembered it all, and he no longer felt near, as if she turned just so. The woman walked in a straight line to all the lamps and turned them on. The red jars of jam, cooling on the windowsills behind the stirring curtains, gleamed red. The dog watched and the mouse listened as the woman in the room became a wild grove of trees, fluttering one second paper-white and the next unfolding, like a thousand pieces of the same thought, into fruit.