Sometimes he can’t decide if he’s a Kurdish peasant or a Shirazi sheik when he’s with me, and he shifts between the two roles-personas in the space of a sentence—or a breath—a kiss. I love the peasant as much as the sheik—and in bed, prefer the rough peasant who demands and takes without embellishment to the sheik who wants to be worshipped and who craves elaborate games and demands I come with costumes and props.
I don’t know which one of them it is who asks me to bring a pomegranate. The text could be the peasant’s or the sheik’s:
“Come at 9. Bring a pomegranate.”
Pomegranate season has just begun so before I go to see him, I stop at the market. Spend an hour caressing Persephone’s cursed fruit, looking for one that’s not too hard nor yet too ripe. It is a sensual experience, the roundness of the fruits, the smell of the seeds and juices breaking through the hard skins… my imagination jumping ahead of this moment to what will happen when I walk through the door and hand him the pomegranate—will he feed it to me seed by seed in bed? Before sex, or after? Maybe in the bath tub, the way he once did with a bowl of cherries—that was the sheik, being magnanimous and also, perhaps, playing out a scene he had seen in a porn movie—but I say that not because of the cherries but because of what followed—the memory floods my senses and I forget The Now completely, the fingers of my left had closing so tightly around the skin of the pomegranate I’ve been caressing I don’t just bruise its hard shell, I break it and come to as I feel its flesh under my fingernails and the slimy softness of the seeds coating my fingernails.
And now, my left hand is around his ankle, pressing in, grasping tight while the right claws at where his chest should be but isn’t–he has moved, where? He is behind me—“Shhhh, don’t scream—remember what I said? Don’t scream. Moan, bite your lips, tear my sheets—suffer—but don’t scream.” He thinks he’s being the sheik, but no, that is the peasants. When he is done and when I have no more breath or moan or ability to want to scream, he pulls me onto his chest and covers my face, shoulder, chest with tiny kisses, drops of sweat from his hair—one from the top of his nose—falling onto me—god, I love it—and now we both know he is just being the peasant.
“Are you hungry?” he asks and comes off the bed and I smile—he will feed me in bed—dates and figs, shelled pistachios, maybe eggs, sunny side up, runny soft yolks, barely warm. “I am making a mess of your sheets,” I will say as I dribble the yellow yolk onto the white duvet. “Too late,” he will laugh. Or, “That’s the least disgusting thing you’ve done to my sheets today.”
“I’m hungry,” I say in a voice that’s still raw from not screaming, but suddenly, he’s not smiling, forehead creased.
“What the fuck is that?” he says. “Fuck, what did I do to you?”
Speckles of red, like pomegranate seeds, juices, on the bed, bright against the whiteness of the sheets he likes to bleach.
I look at the blood and run hands fingers along myself but however rough he was, my skin is unbroken—I don’t understand—oh, fuck—what day of the month is it, did I…
“What the fuck did you do to me?” he says and then we both look at his left ankle to which I held on with my left hand, five gashes, outrageously deep considering how short my fingernails are.
“Am I going to need a rabies shot, animal girl?” he asks, moving in for a kiss—that’s the peasant. “For that, you do not get to eat in the bed. Get on the floor.” That’s the sheik.
“Just polysporin,” I whisper and crawl off the bed over the red droplets that aren’t pomegranate juice.
“Can I help you?” a sales clerk, all in red, red dress to her ankles, red lipstick, red finger nails—I cannot see her toes because she is wearing red boots, but I am certain their nails are red too, they must be.
Red head scarf.
“I am looking for the perfect pomegranate,” I tell her. “And…”I remove my hand from the one I mangled. Should I say, “There was an accident?” I don’t—she laughs as she looks at the broken skin and my dirty hand, dismisses the evidence.
“Here,” she says, and hands me a perfect fruit—I know it is, will be perfect before I take it. I smile a thank you and as I do so she ejaculates a tight little scream, a jagged “Oh!” high-pitched, coming out of her round mouth—lips so red.
“”Oh!” she cries again, and I follow her eyes to the black carcass, hidden-but-not among the reddening pomegranates, of a huge cicada.
“Oh!” she says again, and she is embarrassed, mortified, afraid to touch it, terrified to leave it.
“It’s all right,” I say. “That’s how I know they’re organic.”
In my pocket I have a tissue and I take it out and use it to pick up the small black insect body. I briefly toy with the idea of taking it to him along with the perfect pomegranate, but that will only work if he is all peasant today, and that never happens, he is always both, sometimes in the space of the same sentence, breath, kiss.
I hand the black carcass now in its white shroud to the sales clerk dressed all in red.
“Thank you,” we both say at the same time, then laugh, again, in tandem.
I leave the market with a perfect pomegranate and take it to my Kurdish peasant—Shirazi sheik?—full of memory and anticipation.
For Nicole: Cardamom Knob Wool
For Jenn: Piano River Feather
For Lara: Peasant Cicada Pomegranate