I take an orange from the bowl on the table and head outside. She will be home soon, pushing over the tall hill with cherry in her cheeks and freshness upon her skin, through her hair. It is still only spring, yet warmer than normal. I sit down on the low wall, in a space that gets the sun, and start into the peel with my thumb. She is only person I've ever seen that can remove the entire rind in one spiralling piece. Mine is a shred-job, bits and juice all over the place before I even release the first segment.
The air smells like grass with a smidgen of berries – maybe the farmer has cut the field. The Iron Gate needs some paint, and I think I'll have the energy, but know by the time I put on old clothes, find some brushes and a tin of paint, bring them outside and kneel down to begin, it won't be as simple as that, because it never is. The old flakes will probably need to be scraped away, the metal stripped down to a workable surface. There will probably be something wrong with a hinge. I'll go back through the house and out to the leaning shed to look for a wire brush or a screwdriver and when I make it back to the gate, I will be exhausted and in pain and have to go indoors to lie down.
And so, my life these days has become a series of calculations. Sitting on this low wall, estimating how many steps it might take just to walk across to the field, stop by its gate and stroke the old horse or check for pyramidal rows of fresh cut grass – or try to work out how I can clean all the windows of the house, how many days it will take and how much energy it will use up. I sit here eating this orange and try not to think about how it has already used up some of my reserves just by peeling it.
She will have left the city by now. The high-rises shrinking slowly into old stone buildings – then there will be nothing but thatch roofs, concrete yards and patchwork fields. Not long until she is here beside me - sitting, talking…being.
I am cold all of the time. It is like winter has crawled inside me and decided to rest out the other three seasons until its time has once again come around to prosper. On days when it rains, I sit by the window wishing it would stop, that she could get home without the soaking. Sometimes I feel brave and take the black umbrella to meet her off the bus, but by the time I get down the hill and out to the end of the road, I have no energy to get all the way back up again. Though it's worth it, that pain - to see her a little earlier, to lessen her rain.
Today I will wait. Apple and cherry blossoms have begun to sprout in their familiar whites and pinks. Wild daffodils poke out from hedgerows across the way and lean towards the sun to enrich their stems, brighten their yellow. I gather the leathery pieces of rind into a loose pile beside me on the warm stone and close my eyes to rest. My head feels like I'm moving on a slow-chugging boat, cutting its sluggish path through the sea like scissors through a sheet of material. My breaths fall shallow and the pain starts to pound up through the back of my neck and I must try to open my eyes again, for these moments feel like they can only end in sharp blackness.
* * * * *
And she will come. Pushing over the crest and a little out of breath, with a tiny ball of crimson in each of her cheeks. She will catch me sitting there and her head will fall to the side to tell me that she is tired - but she will still smile. As she walks, the sun will drench her body in its golden beams and she will stop by the wall and embrace me or kiss my forehead. I will hear her voice, smell her hair and her skin and all of her that comes with it and she will be my joy.