Half-Time Oranges by Maya Horton

You’d eat an orange during the lunchtime lecture:
self-care ritual, your daily half-time.

I marvelled at how you never made a mess.
Eat fruit in public? I wouldn’t dare. I’d
get squirts of juice all over my skin,
stain my notebook with pips and peel

I could barely sip from the water bottle
definitely not speak until spoken to. And
do you remember how I used to eat dinner? Push my food
into a corner. Shoulders hunched over.

Look at me and scowl a little. Shake your head, purse your lips
in faint disgust. Just enough,
to make me shrivel further into my seat, hating myself
for my anxious unhealthiness.

I don’t belong here.
I’m not good enough.

I’d start keep pieces of fruit on my desk
for days, even weeks. Waiting for the office to be empty enough
to eat in peace. Sometimes the skin would go rotten before then
and I’d lever them shamefully
into the bin.

Years have passed. I eat my orange like a wolf eats a deer.
Eyes feral, juice gushing, teeth sunk into flesh. Changed from haunted prey
into hungry predator.

You’re probably still peeling your half-time orange,
indulging in unchanging rituals,
and shaming a whole new uncertain generation,
as I speak.

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