I’m eating an orange shortly after waking on quiet Sunday morning. Outside the sun is bright and cold, and the leaves are falling like rain in a strong wind. Inside it’s still quite chilly, and I’m wrapped in thick blanket.
I don’t like the white rind underneath the tougher orange rind. I have to peel it off, strip by strip until the orange is bruised and the juice runs down my fingers and makes the hangnails sting. That’s good. It means the orange is perfectly ripe. I’m sitting by myself at the kitchen table. I’ve spread out paper towels over a wide area, and placed a bowl on either end. The left one is for rinds; the right one is for finished sections.
Peeling the orange takes at least half an hour and it’s not a painless process. My nails are too short to get each piece of rind, and so I must resort to a series of different knives, each carefully wielded so as not to puncture the fruit. Nevertheless, the juice drips down my wrists and gets my watch band sticky.
When the orange is finally ready I arrange the slices in the right hand bowl. I pick up the paper towel and the bowl of rinds and throw them away. At the sink I stand with my hands under the warm running water for far longer than is necessary, letting the warmth in to my bones. When I decide I’m wasting water, I allow myself twenty more seconds and I count down slowly, and then turn the water off.
Back at the table I sit cross-legged in the chair and arrange the blanket around my shoulders. I pick up a slice. My lips are cracked from the dry weather, and from smiling, and they sting with each bite, but the flavor is unsurpassed. More juice drips down my wrists. Between the third and fourth slices I wash my hands again. When the last section is gone I wipe down the table with a sponge and wash my face with hot water. I shove my hands in to my pockets and wrap the blanket around me and stand in the doorway to the kitchen, smiling. The room smells sharp and citrusy and the sun is weaving patterns on the table. My mouth still stings with flavor.