Gathering Fruit
A Short Story by Shanna Seesz
Written using the suggestion "The drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse."
Originally featured on 01-04-2011
As part of our series "The Benefit of Doubt: Stories Written to Explore Domestic Violence and Abuse"

Her house is dark. It is late at night, and he wanders through her hallways. Her living room is full of picture frames with no pictures, a lamp with no lamp shade. Sometimes he thinks her greatest fear is that she will finally be content. Her kitchen is empty, full of fruit she does not eat. “Pie fruit” she calls it, but he has yet to see her bake a pie — let alone eat one. When she gathers pie fruit from the yard, from the fruit trees he planted, she gathers too many at once. They enter the house blemished and spotted, bruised from pressing against each other. He read somewhere if you place fruit in a basket it will bruise less so he bought her one that afternoon. Now, sitting in the corner of the room, the basket holds magazines and half knitted scarves. He rinses an apple and eats around its sore spots, staring down the hallway toward the open door to her room.

Her bed, without him in it, is vacant. She sleeps on one side, like a widowed wife waiting for her drunken sailor. He can see her sharp edges through the blanket. He takes her left hand and checks her pulse, listens for her breathing. When they first met she wanted to make love to him everywhere, all the time. He would bury himself in her curves, her flushed skin. Her excited pink, that urgent shade — it took everything he had not to undress her in public. But now, beneath the light streaming from the street lamp outside, her skin fades a dull gray — a mere shadow.

He lays down next to her, pulls the blanket over himself, placing a hand on her side. She leans away.

Do you miss it?

She rolls over onto her back, staring up at the ceiling.

What?

Do you miss it?

Miss what, Eric? Do I miss sleeping without you sneaking in and waking me up in the middle of the night?

Don’t change the subject.

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Do you miss him? Do you miss what he did to you?

Are you suggesting that I liked it? Who wants that?

I don’t know. It just seems to me that you… I don’t know.

That I like pain.

No.

Then what?

Don’t get upset.

Clearly I’m already upset.

It’s like there’s a reason for all that bad fruit you have, like you take comfort in it.

Clever, Eric. Save your metaphors for once, alright?

I’m just trying to understand.

You think I’m bad fruit. You think I’m damaged?

I don’t think you’re damaged. I think you’re beautiful. I just wish there were more of you.

He runs his hand along her hip and waits.

I’m sorry I don’t make you happy.

I didn’t say that.

She inches herself to the edge of the bed and curls into a ball. He knows she is trying to take up as little space as possible.

You didn’t deserve it you know.

When she doesn’t respond he rolls over facing the window, staring out toward the street. He hears her moving behind him. He sits up, but before he can leave she wedges her feet between his. She presses herself against his back. He thinks about leaving. He thinks about what would happen to her if he was no longer there. He knows she would still sleep in her corner of the bed, that the space was never for him. He pulls her arm around him, holding her wrist in his hand, counting the beats. He can feel her breathing against his neck.

I told you. I told you it was hard for me to get close to people.

I know.

In the beginning it was just the two of them. In the beginning she fell asleep on the couch waiting for him, and he gathered her up, scooping her into his arms and setting her in bed. Over time, she inched further and further away from him, and when he gathered her up he felt the weight of everything she could not say to him. It wasn’t he who was pushing her. It was all that pressing weight.

Read More By Shanna Seesz

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