The room is full of the smell of oranges. Ivan is already down to the
pith, the continuous spiral of peel on the table in front of him. Up
till a moment ago we were neck and neck but then my peel broke and I
had to refind my purchase. Up till a moment ago it was perfect
symmetry. We take our time with the pith; let it get under our nails.
I speed up a little to be in sync with him again. The oranges are
fresh; the pith comes off in large sections. We both pile it to the
right of the peel. The next part of our ritual, the part before we
sink our thumbs into the centre to split the fruit apart, is to push
up our sleeves. First we put the orange down on the plate. Then we
push the sleeve on the left arm up. Then the right arm. Gentle,
We watch each other as we do this. Content in our predictability.
It glints in the morning sunlight and sends its reflection across the
ceiling and across my face. A gold bracelet. In all the time he's been
living with me he's never worn jewellery. Instinctively, I wrap my
hand around his wrist across the table and draw it towards me.
"Show me," I say.
A gold ID bracelet. His name is engraved on it in italics: Ivan.
There are a few scratches and indentations on the surface of the piece
where the name is. The links are chunky on his skinny wrist. It makes
his wrist look like a child's. He tries to pull away. Sheepish, angry
and shy all at the same time. I am indignant.
"Let me see."
I yank his wrist closer and twist the bracelet round to find the
catch. The gaps between the links trap the hair as I slide it round
and he winces.
"Sorry." I try to be more careful but am impatient.
"Don't be so rough," he says.
"Don't be such a baby!" I say.
The catch is fiddly. It seems too small and delicate for the size of
the thing. I need to use my nails. The bits of the pith do not make
matters easier. It finally opens and the bracelet falls into a heap
between us on the table. Its sound is weak despite its size. A dull
thud. Ivan draws back his hand and rubs his bare wrist.
"It's just a bracelet."
"I can see that."
As if he has suddenly changed his mind about letting me inspect it,
Ivan tries to snatch at it. I get there before him. I cup it close to
He leans back in his chair, rolls his eyes into the back of his head
and folds his arms. I move my hand away from my chest slightly but
keep it close. The bracelet feels light. I see a hallmark. It
indicates twenty-four carat but the bracelet feels more like nine. In
fact it feels like it could be gold-plated. Then I see the inscription
on the back of the panel. It's in the same italics as his name but
smaller. Ivan has taken to rolling the orange around his plate, not
sure of whether to start eating it or not. I watch his for a moment
before I dangle the bracelet in front of him. It sparkles and sends a
shower of glitter across his forehead and makes him squint. It is too
silly to be angry. Too immature. Too ridiculous. "True love forever
over ever single rainbow. XXX S.L 1978" I put on a
sweet-little-girl voice to recite the statement. He smiles. There is
nothing to worry about. A forty-year-old man had a nostalgic moment. A
mid-life crisis. I lay the gold bracelet down carefully beside his
plate. Ivan takes it as permission to dig his thumb into the centre of
the orange and split it. Usually we eat the segments as we separate
them. Today I arrange them on the plate in a circle before I eat them.
The catch was fiddly. It would have been very difficult for Ivan to
put on himself. When he has finished eating the orange I am going to
ask him to put it on again. He licks his finger and thumb clean
between tearing the segments off.
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