As far as I can tell there would be no ‘me’ without ‘we’. I am only me when I am also Buffalo Gal and Delicate Little Thang, and whether you want to admit it or not, I’m betting you are much more than one, as well. We are complex personalities housed in a single body. We come and go depending on the need and/or desire of the moment, kind of like in the movie Inside Out. Mad me, sad me, bad me, glad me…me is really we.
I had not intended to wax philosophic when I sat down to write today, so let ‘we’ step away from the word of the day today and tell you about the Blood Orange, because you’re going to need that information somewhere along the line of the telling. I have to swallow several times and shake myself a bit to gather up the nerve to address this, but it’s important.
I can’t image how I came to possess my innate ways with metaphor and symbols. Somewhere in the genetic pool I dived right into them and they stuck like skin. I didn’t realize I had them for such a long time. I thought everyone’s brains saw red and immediately smelled blood. I can’t remember when I first became aware of my odd ways, but I learned to hide it pretty quickly, realizing it was weird. I didn’t try to stop my thoughts; I rather liked the way colors took on shapes and smells and how words were more than words, with hidden messages built into them. I loved double entendres and could easily understand the double-speak messages adults in my life thought would go right over my head.
I knew exactly what my dad meant when I heard him tell someone on the phone that my mom was blue and couldn’t shake it off. I saw her with strands of dark indigo ribbon strapping her tightly, smelling of bleach and vomit. They coiled around her like a snake, covering her face and binding her arms until she couldn’t escape the squeezing hold. I knew what I saw meant she was so sad she could not be made happy again, that she was trapped with all of us and we were too much for her. My mom was blue because she couldn’t breath. Her children were smothering her with our need of her. I was the fourth girl down with two more after me. My three brothers wouldn’t be added until some years later.We were, so to speak, the nails in her coffin, although she would never have acknowledged that fact. I have lived my life through the lens of a metaphor.
Is it any wonder then, that dozens of years later the Blood Oranges in the produce section of the grocery store would send me into a panic? I didn’t know such a thing existed except in my imagination, a metaphor for exploding pain I had experienced when I had found one on the floor of Uncle Rob’s Model T Car. I picked it up and bit into it. Red blood seeped from it and suddenly I was doubled over in pain, holding myself between my legs where its terrible lava had spilled from the wounded peeling and into my lap. I thought I had imagined it. I had to have imagined it. I couldn’t wrap my head around what I was seeing, but there they were in the big flat container next to the familiar Navel Oranges. A sign was secured on the front that boldly declared ‘Blood Oranges’. I stared at them, my stomach doing somersaults, the taste of bile in my mouth. My four year old Davy was in the basket of the shopping cart. He had become impatient and was whining, wanting down from his perch. I pulled myself away and quickly finished up the shopping, pacifying my son with a free day-old cookie from the bakery.
I came back the next day, and the next, just to make sure I hadn’t somehow misunderstood the sign. On the second return trip I took two of them home with me and placed them in a bowl on the kitchen counter. There they stayed until mold covered them. I threw them in the garbage along with the bowl, unable to bring myself to make contact with them again. I hadn’t peeled them or bitten into one or cut one up for my boys to share. I had simply watched them, day after day, until they became fuzzy and gray, no longer recognizable, and them I threw them away. It was just a day or two later that the vacuum crashed into the kitchen, thrown over my head by my own hands while I was in a rage, as if I were a maniac.
Blood Oranges were an actual thing and I could no longer think of them in any other way. The danger was real and I had to face the fact that this metaphor was not as it seemed. My world was about to unravel and I feared the dark ribbon I felt wrapping around me. I had shied away from any real help all these years, but I knew I had no choice now. I wasn’t in a safe place and I feared for my children’s safety as well. I made the call and my life’s story tilted into a different dimension.
If you are baffled by my reference to the vacuum, you might want to look at the post titled I’ve Been Out Ridin’ Fences…
Today’s word is autonomous: