Tulips by Tammy Pineda

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Columns & Archives

Along with the daily feature articles from our columnists, read works from our past contributors in the categories of prose, poetry and visual art, alongside interviews and other musings.

 

Red Juice by Shira Zur

Photograph by Tammy Pineda (https://www.instagram.com/tnpineda/)

“If you keep swallowing watermelon seeds, one day a watermelon will grow inside your stomach.” 

Her mother’s voice was stern and followed by an urging frown, her dark eyebrows arched downwards and over her eyes, her forehead covered with wrinkles. The girl was only five then, and her small hands could barely hold up the heavy watermelon slice, red juice seeping out of the fruit and dripping down her hands and onto the blanket. The beach was crowded but they had their own little spot near the rocks, far enough from the splash of the waves but close enough to hear them crashing again and again against the yellow sand. 

And, if the girl closed her eyes tight enough and all the noises of the seagulls flying and the waves crashing and the people talking faded away, she could truly feel it; a black seed burying itself deep down her stomach; a seedling emerging, lifting its head up slowly; the plump green ball growing bigger and bigger inside her stomach until one day, when it became the oval fruit she knew and loved. She opened her eyes and smiled, taking another bite of the slice in her hand. The red juice continued dripping down her hands. She continued swallowing watermelon seeds.

“If you go out in the cold with wet hair, you’ll get a fever.” 

Her mother had already walked past the bathroom and into the kitchen when the girl looked up, her soaking hair tied in a messy knot, little droplets streaming out, soaking the mat on the bathroom floor. The steam from the shower fogged the mirror and the girl had been using her finger to trace circles into the fog when her mother had walked past. The girl looked up to her right. Outside the bathroom window, she could see the gray skies outside, the rain falling down and creating puddles in their muddy grass. 

And, if the girl closed her eyes tight enough and let the steam from the shower engulf her, she could really imagine it; her going outside, her hair still dripping, working side by side with the rain; her legs shaking with every step, icy chills shaking her whole body; her coming back home, her nose red and aching; and finally, her huddled underneath layers of blankets, a mountain of used tissues growing larger next to her bed, the hot thermometer resting defeated on her bedside table. She opened her eyes and turned out of the bathroom, rushing down the hallway to get ready. Her mother did not see her drenched hair as she slipped out of the house. 

“If you keep making that face, it will be stuck like that forever.”

The girl was standing by the door, waiting for the others to get ready, and decided to make silly faces in the mirror. She was not sure why she was making silly faces; maybe it was pure boredom, or maybe she was trying to tie down one more thing from her childhood before she completely let it loose. Her mother stared at her through the mirror, and although her posture was still straight and her face still tight, a soft grin formed on her face, and then vanished as quickly as it came.  

And, if the girl closed her eyes tight enough and ignored her mother’s exhausted sighs, ignored the clock ticking away on the wall, ignored the spiral circling faster and faster inside her head, she could really picture it; her making the ridiculous face in the mirror one day; her eyes crossing over, looking down at the tip of her nose as everything else became a gray blur; her friends laughing until it wasn’t so funny anymore, an alarming panic starting to arise within her; and finally, her giving up, realizing that her face was going to remain cross-eyed forever. 

She quit making the face and looked at her mother in the mirror. She concentrated on every detail; her thin nose, her large brown eyes, her ruffled eyebrows, her long, thick hair, just like the girl’s. She continued looking until her eyes hurt and every feature on her mother’s face overlapped and meshed together, forming one blurry image that did not look like her mother at all. Then, she blinked, refocusing her vision, and stared down at the tip of her nose, making a cross-eyed face, sticking out her tongue and giggling to herself. 

One day, the girl was finally living alone, and she got to soak in the world with a fresh opinion, no mother around to restrict her outlook. She began looking for the little details, an insatiable mission, as there were infinite little details at every situation and. And, once she began looking for these details, she also began noticing things. 

She noticed that when people swallow watermelon seeds, they might get a stomachache, but the fruit does not grow inside their stomachs. She noticed that when people go out with wet hair in the cold breeze, they might feel a little chilly, shocked by the contrast from the hot shower, but they do not catch a cold. And, she noticed that when people make silly faces and their eyeballs move over to the side of their eyes and their red tongue sticks out, they might look a little stupid, but their faces do not stay like that forever. 

Her mother had lied. 

The girl was not a girl anymore, and as she sat next to her daughter on the beach, she looked out at the waves and breathed in the salty air and thought to herself. Her daughter sat on the beach towel, drawing circles in the sand, and her blabbers and giggles intruded the girl’s thoughts. The girl sighed, smiling at her little creation, and turned to her bag, pulling out the bowl of watermelon slices she had cut that morning. She ripped off the saran wrap and handed her daughter a slice, her little baby hands still covered with sand. Her daughter let out another giggle, bent down, and took a large, messy bite out of the fruit, red juice dripping down her mouth and onto her chin. 

As the girl watched the droplets dribbling down her daughter’s chin, a panic erupted inside of her and the words formed themselves and traveled rapidly up her throat and before she could stop herself she opened her mouth and said:

“If you keep swallowing watermelon seeds, one day a watermelon will grow inside your stomach.” 

Shira Zur is a rising senior in high school. She has loved to read and write ever since she can remember and hopes to pursue a career doing what she loves one day. Her work has been published in The Weight Journal and is in a forthcoming publication by Truant Lit.

Read other published work: https://www.allearsindia.com/weekly-publications

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