Ripe When Yields To Gentle Pressure

Tyler is almost five years old. His speech is perfectly clear until he talks to me. Watch me? Rock me? I haven’t the foggiest. He clambers onto one of the rocking chairs on the huge enclosed porch and starts to rock. I watch. It’s not good enough. I take the next chair over, put one hand on his chair and rock both chairs in time. Somehow, still not good enough. He slithers down from his chair and into mine and, straddling my lap, leans against me and buries his hands in my hair. He heaves a heavy, tryptophan-laden sigh.

“Pleased ta meetcha, kiddo,” I say aloud and prop my chin on his head, nuzzling his raspberry-lemon-scented hair.

Erika comes outside and sees me there, trapped under this kid I’ve just met, and pours me a glass of wine – the reason I came outside to begin with. Her family is large and holidays are always filled with random guests like me. They’ve perfected the art of staging food and drink.

“Want me to get his mom?”

“Nah, he’s fine. Another three minutes of this and I’ll have all my baby-lust satisfied – for a few years at least.”

She takes the chair next to ours and runs her hand down Tyler’s leg, remarking on his kid-sized feet, comparing them to our own. We laugh and he laughs with us before sliding off my lap and bounding away.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“You used to have this fire. This spark. It hasn’t gone out but it’s gotten dimmer. You need to figure out why and bring it back.”

I don’t turn to face him but walk away, pick up the purple, unscrew the top and sniff.

“I believe you’re referring to a time when I was quite mad,” I say, screwing the top back on and reaching for the blue.

“Maybe there’s something to be said for that.”

“Something to be said for madness? What is it that can be said for madness? Defend madness, if you will.” The dark blue is moderately offensive: too flowery and somehow smells like the plastic bottle.

He looks cornered, and I know I’ve gone too far. Big surprise. Going too far is my specialty.

“I liked your hair red,” he effectively dodges, “it matched your temper.”

“And my madness?” A give him a single, raised eyebrow. A light blue smells faintly of mint, cut grass, and some sort of wake-em-up. I like it.

“A little controlled madness in a woman can be highly attractive, you know.”

“Brother. You’ve been watching too many movies. ‘Controlled madness’? There ain’t no such thing, my friend.” I have to bite back a laugh though, because I know he was trying to compliment me. I give him a kick and reach for a lighter purple in a different shaped bottle. More decorative. More expensive. I open it up and give it a sniff. Mmm love lust desire want want want. There is a perfume in that scent that I spray on my throat so I can continue to smell it as I walk around. I half-wonder if I will still like it in another few minutes. But I won’t.

We are in that store in the mall that is filled with bath things – soaps and lotions and whatnot. Each scent a different color, and no color ever repeated. Walking in there is like slipping into a world with strange and different priorities, a logic that doesn’t necessarily apply elsewhere. I never knew there were so man,y many shades in the spectrum from green to blue. A bazillion of them are represented here, each with its own highly appropriate scent. We are looking for a gift for his girlfriend. Just a little something. They are still new to each other and he is still trying to impress the hell out of her.

The store has an aromatherapy section, and one of the scents alleges to relieve stress. It smells fantastic – invigorating and soothing both. He wants the massage gel. I squeeze a dab onto my hand and he cringes.

“Ewwww, keep it away from me.” He draws away but watches in stunned fascination as I rub the little bit between my palms. It is extraordinarily greasy. Yuck.

“Joe? You realize that if you want to be the one to massage her, you’re going to have to touch it.”

“Yeah, okay, I know. It’s all right on my hands but just don’t. Let it. Touch me.”

“Too greasy?” I show him my hands, shiny from the gel. He strokes one finger across my palm and agrees with me. The search continues briefly until we find a massage cream. Same scent, different formulation, not greasy. Bingo.

“Mmm smell this,” I say, standing in front of the tiny section of products for men. I open the dark green one, and take a sniff myself before offering it to him. “It’s the sexy-man smell,” I say in my exaggerated TV announcer voice. I give a cursory sniff to the other man-scents before continuing on. Out of the corner of my eye I see that he has cataloged the color, the scent, the location within the store, and my reaction to it. I am certain that, on his next date, he’ll be wearing the sexy-man smell.

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I am alone in the produce section of the grocery store, helplessly fondling the fruit. I used to have a roommate who would do this for me – he could always tell when something was ripe and ready to come home. I go through the motions, but I never remember which I’m supposed to sniff, shake, thump, press. I watch the other people there but they all know what they are doing – or they fake it really, really well. Usually I will give up and buy apples, bananas, strawberries – things you can tell by looking at them whether they are any good to eat. But today I want. I want pears. I want a cantaloupe.

I press my lips against the pear’s firm, cold flesh and I ask it – are you good? Do you want to come home with me? The pear, at least, has instructions. A tiny sticker answers my question. Ripe when yields to gentle pressure.

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Cynthia Lugo

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