I staggered into the pantry to grab an orange. That would do it. A glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice would wake me up. After that, everything would feel right.
Right hand reached up for the juicer as left hand went for an orange. But instead of lifting out a firm, heavy, juicy orange, my fingers went right through a piece of rotten fruit. As the adult around here, I should have tossed the orange into the garbage can and moved on. But I couldn’t move on. Not only couldn’t I move on, I couldn’t even move out of the pantry. I dropped to the floor and buried my head in my knees. I sat there, gunky orange rot on my fingers, hunched and sobbing, for far too long.
Oranges gone bad, this is cause for tears? Okay, well, I had just spent far too much money on a case of fruit from the roving produce man who visits my house a few times a year. Somehow I always manage to buy what he’s selling, even though his samples are always tastier than what I end up with. And now I was the owner of thirty pounds of rotten oranges. And I wanted a drink. I craved that juice, and now I couldn’t have it.
I know I am capable of near-hysterical acts of drama, but even to me this seemed a little over the top. I wiped the slimy orange parts off on my sock and took a breath. Not a deep breath, because I was still folded in half over my knees, but a breath. In. Out. In again.
What was really wrong?
Isn’t that the question?
What was really twisting my heart to the breaking point so that an overripe piece of fruit could bring me down?
And do you know what? It was nothing. Nothing and everything. There was no major trauma. Everyone was well. Most everyone was happy. Small inconveniences like gnats in front of my eyes were suddenly wood slivers under my nails. The weight of all that needed doing pressed heavy on my back and shoulders, and I knew I simply could not handle it.
I could not be the person I wanted to be. I could never measure up to what I expected of me. I couldn’t be a perfect wife. I couldn’t even be a decent mother. I was a lame friend, a bad sister, a horrible neighbor, a hack writer, and I couldn’t even make a glass of orange juice without breaking down.
I needed a vacation. A maid. A nanny. A pedicure.
Or maybe just a hug.
(This is fiction. I’m fine. None of this even happened, except me needing a maid, and maybe a pedicure. It’s just an exercise in writing – the prompt was “good things gone bad”.)