Back to Issue Forty-Two

Orangery

BY OLGA MUSIAL

I. At the turn of the century, we give the house a name. A name for the kind of house Mom breaks her hipbone in when she’s too busy peeling oranges to notice cupboard swerves, the kind of house that makes her grow into herself like a petal. The kind of house that no longer exists outside of the picture I hold by my nose, of Mom, sepia-stained, thumbing citruses and sticking peels down the cracks of our mattress. Her nails are sharp enough to puncture the rubber, pop out copper springs like locks from my hair on school days. This is the kind of house in which she does not sleep, plum-purple insomnia ringed around her eyes. She skins the night away with yellowed fingertips, peels at this house we outgrew although she said it would fit us always. One night, she mistakes my palm for an orange and scrubs my skin apart; picks at it until she sees what makes me from the inside. As if in shame, she deposits the peels by the entrance.

 

II. I am too little to know how to cut an orange properly. I am too little to care properly for things because at twelve, you care selfishly. You care for grasshoppers in Mom’s lawn by taking them by the legs and putting in mason jars, for oranges by eating them without letting the sour dance on your tongue. On birthdays I find myself wanting to blow candles off our rooftop, of this house that fits me just well. I don’t take up much space. I don’t take up any space anymore. I wrap around my curls a handkerchief she wore at twenty, and if I smear it across my face for long enough, I become her. I do not linger; Mom does not linger. There are only photographs, of this house with walls glassed like an orangery. I leave a suitcase ajar where I curl to sleep on the lumps of her mattress, springs cutting into the pink flesh of my back, and I want to ask Mom, that body of a person who no longer exists, what she calls it when I still find orange peels in the cracks of the ceiling.

 

Olga (she/her) is a fiction writer from Warsaw, Poland. Her work has been recognised by Bennington College, amongst others, and is published or forthcoming in Fractured Lit, Trampset, and elsewhere. When not writing, you can find her combing through second-hand bookshops or tweeting @olgamusial.

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