put the tangerine on the table and told me to eat it because it was good for me. I wasn’t sure I could believe you. You knew I hated tangerines and still I can not fathom how something so bitter could be so good for me. I said to you:

“Mommy, I don't like this.”

Before I could finish the sentence, I flinched with fear. My cheek caught the back part of your hand. Like a leather glove to the fast side of a baseball, it fit so perfectly. It had grown accustomed to that spot. The grooves in your knuckles etched into the soft parts of my skin and it hurt like hell but, by then, I had become a warrior and the pain was very familiar. So I did not cry. Crying happened when I was six. I am seven and a half now, and crying is for babies, just like you said. So things like this are commonplace.

Once you hit me so hard, I could taste the residue of last night’s liquor on your hand. There was a stale odor and I could tell it had been sitting on your fingertips for a while, and now it was in my nose, in my mouth.

I knew it was from the night before— it was about 7:00 in the morning, and you hadn't had your first drink (which you usually poured around 8:30am).

fell in love with Theodore Cain in the 3rd grade. I never told you because I feared it would make you jealous. I knew you were still in love with Daddy and we both knew he stopped loving you a long time ago. But Theodore is 27 now — nine months my senior. I am still in love with him. He is in love with me too, but some days are hard. Some days are hard like the hard days you once shared with Daddy.

One night I run Theodore’s bath water, thinking he needs some relief from his 12-hour shift at the tire shop. He comes into the bathroom and sees me sitting on the edge of the tub. I see the confusion on his face; the white parts of his eyes flood with a red fire that I can feel.

The back of his hand meets my cheek,

“Where’s my dinner?”

I tell him that I wanted to make sure he had a hot bath because I know it has been a long day. The grooves in his knuckles aren't quite like yours. I can stand them a little better. Maybe this is because you have prepared me for this.

So for a split second after the blow, I am grateful. But immediately I am not, because the pain comes back and lets me know that it is here. In my head I scream: “Mommy, I don't like this.”

Yes. You were the one I called out for. And when I called for you I called silently because I knew it wouldn't make a difference. In all of my naïveté, I thought you were the only one I had. I knew you wouldn't hear me but I mustered up the courage to try one last time, just to let you know:

I don't like this.”

been nearly a decade since your death and almost half that time since I have broken free from Theodore. One day I was shopping for fruit at the local farmer’s market to decorate my new fruit basket that sits in the middle of my dining room table — You would like the table. It’s big and round and wooden with a cherry-red finish. There’s plenty of room to accumulate junk: old mail never opened, ashtrays, coasters.

Stumbling across a bag of organic tangerines, locally grown and harvested, I cringe at the thought of one in my mouth. The farmer talks them up: they’re this, this and that. It was as if he wouldn't let me leave until I bought at least one. I cave and buy one bag, three tangerines inside. To me, this is two too many. I think I only bought them to use the taste as comfort — telling myself that you weren't really dead since there are still tangerines on this Earth.

When I bit into one I found that tangerines are not supposed to be a bitter fruit. They were always bitter because you let them sit and rot in the bag too long before you fed them to me.

Now I buy one bag from the local farmer
twice a week.

Want more? See more from July’s issue of Those People.

Feeling inspired to share your thoughts? Write a Response below! (Here’s how it works.)