The Satisfaction of Longing: Stories by Victoria Melekian
  Stories by Victoria Melekian
  1  How to Spell Egypt
 Mercy Smells Like Lemons
3  Looking for Stars
4  Fallen Oranges
5  Help
6  Ashes
7  Far From Home
  About the Author  |  |  Summer 2022 Fiction Issue

Fallen Oranges

It was supposed to be temporary, driving the delivery van until school started. But you never enrolled and you’re not sure you will. You’re tired of books and papers. School requires concentration and motivation; actually caring about something. You stopped caring the day the doctor shook his head and said, “Sorry.” You came home, crawled into bed, and listened as your husband dismantled the crib. He unscrewed the nuts and bolts and put them into an applesauce jar then closed the door to the room.

The two of you pass the salt and the TV remote, sleep back-to-back, barely touching, not knowing how to do more than politely navigate around the shared sorrow. It’s like a new country with fragile borders. He mows the lawn on Saturdays and trims the edges. You watch from the window and wave when he looks up. He tells you he loves you, and the words sound like they’re traveling across miles of water.

You like the warm cocoon of the van, the long winding streets, slogging up and down the 405 freeway following bumpers at a slow crawl. All day long you deliver flowers to pretty girls in downtown offices and housewives in the San Fernando Valley who have too much or not enough. You go to sad hospital rooms where no one visits and the flowers wilt and stink and the Get Well balloons go limp.

“You could try again,” your mother says as though you’re talking about making pancakes, not babies. You tell her you don’t want a replacement. “Not a replacement, honey,” she says, “a new little being.” But you’re afraid because you now know what it is you could lose.

She pats your hand and says there’s plenty of time. And that scares you too, all that time, vast and gaping, and how you’re going to fill it. Your old life is something faint, tucked into a seashell you strain to hear. You want to care—about Christmas, and whole wheat bread, clean laundry, global warming, a sky full of clouds, but you’re numb and everything’s gray. You think about leaving, driving through the night, stopping for coffee in places with bright lights that hum, splashing cool water on your face in dirty gas station restrooms and drying your hands on a rough brown paper towel. Instead, you make lists of bad things you’ve done because you’re convinced this is retribution for your sins. Lying to your parents and shoplifting a lipstick when you were thirteen doesn’t seem like enough.

You start painting: lonely sunsets, one apple, a nest of baby birds with wide open beaks. You take an art class and fall in love with the possibilities of a blank canvas and the lingering scent of turpentine on your fingertips. One night you let the teacher, a man named Marc with a c, kiss you, and you don’t know why. Only that it’s different and for that moment you stopped wondering if the baby was right or left-handed, if his eyes would have stayed blue. You add the kiss to your list knowing you’ll probably do it again.

Your husband brings home a dog, a big floppy thing that makes you smile. You both know he’s playing dirty, but you say, “Let’s name him Rex.” You agree to go for it, and together you throw away the birth control pills. The next day you refill the prescription and hide them in your purse. The dog digs a hole under the fence and runs into the street. A close call, just a broken leg that can be fixed, but you’re seeing some cause and effect. Your list starts making sense. You have sex with the art teacher. You’re becoming the girl who deserves bad things.

When your husband asks why you’ve stopped going to class, you tell him you’ve learned everything you can from that man. On Sundays you go to mass with your mother. You buy candles from the ethnic food section of the grocery store—Jesus with a gnarly crown of thorns on His head and Our Lady with children gathered at her feet. Your husband sees you reading Lives of the Saints and suggests couples counseling. You tell him no, you’ll go alone.

You start out slow, talking about the heaviness of things—toaster, television, three phones, for some reason all so overwhelming. It takes time, but eventually you get to the baby. The affair. All the lies. You volunteer twice a week for Catholic Charities because you agree with the therapist that private atonement is preferable to shattering the innocent. Some nights, though, the ceiling presses down on you and it’s hard to breathe. But you do, big breaths in and out until the feeling passes.

Here are some things you know: the unpicked oranges fall and roll to the fence, you can’t fold paper in half more than eight times, and time does not heal all wounds.


  © Victoria Melekian, 2022

NEXT  >> 

Back to top