by Alexandra Axel
Elise tugs at the flesh spilling over the waistline of her jeans. She presses her flat palm hard into the space just below her rolls to see if she can feel three weeks of life. The sad thing is, she thinks, that she would have to tell people before they guessed it, not with all of the weight she put on since middle school. Fifty pounds. That’s like a million embryos. And she imagines herself as a spider bursting with life from her silky sac. A spider with a fat face and limp hair, freckles. But not the cute kind. Jackie constantly teases her about that: you got freckles but like the cancer kind. You got cancer, girl? And then laughs and laughs.
She texts Jackie: im pregnant.
Just like that, with a period, so she knows it’s serious. And she waits for her phone to vibrate.
The page is entitled “What is Bleeding Like?” and she scrolls down. She catches words like “tree of life” and “little root” and “pooling blood” and the further she scrolls: “incomplete” and “infection” and “seek immediate assistance.” She scrolls faster and faster until she hits the bottom of the page.
Looking away from the screen, she stares her whole face into the fan on the window ledge, watching a hair caught in the blade get whipped about.
Vibrate, Jackie texts back: wtf.
With a period. It’s serious.
Jackie texts again: whos is it?
Elise texts back: ?? yr guess is as good as mine.
She walks through the kitchen to the front door, the tiles stick to her feet like spilt cola. It’s hot as balls out. Elise fans herself with a pudgy hand but the breeze she creates is only hot air. She absentmindedly drags her fingers along her stomach and sips on her lemonade. The ice cubes have melted but it’s still so sour. Jackie has texted her at least twice more with tips. One of them was to make some lemonade. Jackie told her not to put sugar in it. The acid might get rid of the baby, sugar cancels out acid. Elise is starting to not trust Jackie’s expertise. After all, Jackie’s never gotten jacked before. That’s what they call sex and it makes them seem older.
She takes a little slip of an ice cube out of her drink and pours the rest into the potted plants that line her stoop. She pushes it back and forth in her mouth and then spits it out into her hand. Carefully placing it on her knee, Elise lets it slide down her prickly leg.
Vibrate, it’s Jackie: get lots of oranges, vit c
Vibrate, Jackie again: also parsley stick it up your woohoo
Elise places both her palms on the dirty stoop, feeling little rocks indent her palms. She always gained pounds belly first. She lifts herself up, like a pregnant woman, brushes herself off, seeing bits of dirt flake off of her.
On the way home from the corner deli, she feels like she is carrying half her weight in oranges. The parsley is tucked safely into her back pocket. She had a vision of it being mashed into a pulp by the oranges rolling around in their bags before she could do what she needed with it. Returning to her stoop, she runs the parsley leaves under her nose. She inhales deeply. She imagines this is the kind of herb her father uses at work. She’ll ask him about it when she goes to visit him next. She’ll ask her grandma too if she can plant some in one of the pots on the stoop. That way it can grow and they’ll always have it fresh. Even through her deep inhales of parsley she can smell the stale air wafting from the screen door. Like parmesan cheese.
She peels back the rind on the orange, scraping away at its skin. She picks away the pulp that embeds itself under her fingernails with her teeth. Once its lush center is revealed, she bites into it sucking the juice like a vampire. With each seed that gets caught in her mouth, she pushes it into the space between her gums and bottom lip. She eats another orange when she is finished, and another. She can’t get enough of the sweet juice and how it tingles her throat and stomach and makes her fingers smell like clean. She digs a small hole in the dirt of one of the pots and spits all of the seeds she has gathered into it. She covers the seeds up like a fresh grave and pictures an orange tree growing out of the old dirt that has never nourished any plant before. It would be a Christmas miracle. She snorts. Christmas in July. She wonders if oranges even grow on trees. She has never seen one before and can’t even recall a picture of one. She has only ever seen plucked oranges, in a sad cardboard box at the deli. Elise decides that when she is older she’ll move to Florida and surround her house with orange trees. And plant parsley in an herb garden on her kitchen window.
In the bathroom, with her underwear at her ankles, the deed done, Elise realizes that she has not yet washed the parsley. She worries that any dirt on it will act as a fertilizer and cause the parsley to grow and grow. She doesn’t quite understand what dirt does for plants, she’s too young, but she knows it’s like a womb or whatever. That its leaves might tickle the three week old something growing in her and Elise is so frightened by the thought that she begins to feel vomit rise in her throat. She gets down on her knees, in too much of a hurry to pull up her underwear, and bows over the toilet. She once heard that throw up is the inside of your guts and pictures something like oysters on a rope pushing out their slimy center. Elise is surprised by how sweet her vomit tastes. Like orange juice. The water in the bowl turns the kind of orange crayon she used to draw in the sun. The Florida sun, the Florida orange. And she pictures her Florida house with orange trees and parsley growing wild, and her dad is cooking up something fresh, something without smelly cheese, and her grandma is opening up packets of seeds to sprinkle on the moist, overturned dirt, just to see what grows.
She hears her phone vibrate on the bathroom counter. It’s Jackie texting: did it work?
It vibrates again and again and again.
And the buzzing fills Elise’s head. The toilet becomes the static on a tv screen and she looks down at the orange that is pooling on the floor too. No, she thinks. It’s not orange.
Blood rushes out of her, carrying parsley leaves like little empty canoes tipping over a waterfall.
Alexandra Axel is a poet, playwright and prose writer from New York City. Her writing attempts to explore boundary and identity, the inherent and assumed. She currently resides on a homestead in Tennessee with her pup, Hen.
Instagram & Twitter: @alexandrakaxel