MY MOTHER TOLD ME YOU COULD ONLY KNOW THAT ORANGES WERE GOOD IF THEY SMELLED LIKE FLORIDA by Megan M. Garwood

At the grocery store, I am buying whole milk and skim milk because I like to put whole milk in my coffee and I like to use skim milk in my Smacks. I am reaching for a gallon jug when I feel someone grab my butt with a heavy hand. I turn around to see a man with little expression pat my rear. I ask him what does he think he is doing and he smiles and tells me to have a nice day. I am scared but also complimented. I am in the cereal aisle now, and I think I deserve more than just Smacks. The boxes are colorful bounty and I am a robber on lookout. I see a toucan who is sledding into a bowl of colorful donuts. It must be Christmastime. I thought it was summer. I feel a hand on my breast. I look down and see bright pink nails, like claws, with airbrushed flamingos on them. She squeezes again and says, honk! honk! Her smile is big like one of those lawyers on late-night TV. I don’t understand, I say, but I don’t think she hears me and says, thanks for the feel. Normally, I would run away, but where would I go? I suppose that is a question I must answer. Instead, I turn to a familiar face that I haven’t seen in a while: Count Chocula, levitating white marshmallows with his mind. It really must be Christmas. Now I’m in aisle three. I promised myself I would not be in three, but I am here, looking at the chocolate bars. I pass the fancy ones because who needs to pretend to want coconut sugar. It is okay. It is for someone else: she’s probably wonderful, and she probably squeezes her own orange juice and maybe she pours it into little juice glasses for her family, but I am trying to make it to the checkout without dying. There are Santa Clauses filled with whipped peanut butter. I pause. There is a Santa filled with marshmallow. I wonder. There is an angel filled with toffee. I feel a hand again, this time on my upper thigh, like it is guiding me into a yoga pose. I look down. It belongs to a teenage boy, acne like volcanos erupting. Tongue out, he pants like a dog. I think this is illegal, and I worry about cameras. I ask him what he wants, and he barks at me and squeezes the soft flesh under my stretch pants and asks what it’s doing there. Now I am sad. I feel useless, and I politely ask him to remove his paw. I reach for the Santas with peanut butter, the Santa with marshmallow, and the thin angel filled with toffee, and I cry a little on the walk to the checkout. I forgot orange juice and I remember that I will never be someone who juices my own fruit or chooses the coconut sugar over the chemical, and I wonder how people do their makeup every day. I decide I am going to do it, I am going to juice an orange, and when I take an orange to my nose to smell for ripeness, I feel a pull at my hair, and a hand dig to the root to fill its fingers with my uncombed mane. I turn to see the hand belongs to the manager of the store, and he tells me that we can’t smell the fruit before we purchase it. I ask him how, then, does one know if the fruit is good without feeling it or smelling it. I tell him how my mother told me you could only know an orange was good after you smelled its navel and it smelled like Florida. His response is to pull my head back hard until I look up to the industrial beams and iron-looking light fixtures and see a little bird tweeting and it looks like it winked, but I cannot be sure because it is so far away, but I would bet on it. So I go over to the cold section, and I bend down to look at the juice selection and someone hooks their finger into my mouth and pulls at the corner until I snarl. I see it is a man in a suit with a nice gold watch and shiny leather shoes like a banker. His eyes are dreamy, and I think maybe I deserve this, so I cock my head, flutter my eyes, and lick his finger, but he says, gross; you’re too old! And I say, I’m sorry, I thought this was what you wanted. And he says nice try but that it was too late for me, and I agree. When I get to the checkout, I smile at the cashier and ask how her day was and she says, umm okay, and I say that’s great, then I say, guess what? I got fired today for being unlikable by upper management. The cashier says, cool, anarchy, and kind of raises her fist in the air. 


Megan M. Garwood is a write from Detroit, MI, whose essays on art have appeared in publications such as Triangle House and The Wall Street Journal. She is the founding editor of Chalet Magazine and has held contributing editorial positions at Whitehot Magazine and on-verge.org.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

Read Next: EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNT FROM THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND by Rick White