By Ralph Black
“It’s quiet today.”
The sun’s rays frame two silhouettes sitting next to the lake, their blanket spread beneath them and their picnic basket at their side. She reaches over and passes him the pomegranate. He is always better at taking the seeds out, coaxing each individual morsel with a gentle touch. The plinking of the pomegranate seeds falling into the bowl is cradled by whispers of a peaceful breeze.
“When is your flight?” His voice is carefully soft.
“In three hours.”
“I suppose you had better start getting ready then. I know you like to be there a few hours early.”
Her laugh is subtle and dry as she responds.
“You can’t trust planes nowadays.”
“Well, you can’t trust pilots. Planes are fine.”
One of the seeds falls from the pomegranate onto the blanket. He picks it up, a jewel beaming in the warm lighting before it passes his lips and is swallowed whole.
She sighs in teasing derision. “You never chew them.”
“I don’t see the point. They’re food. They’re meant to be ingested.”
“They’re meant to be enjoyed.”
He smiles at the familiar routine, picking another seed up and exaggeratingly placing it in his mouth before consuming it without puncturing its tender flesh. His teasing smile is brief, replaced by intense focus on the task at hand. She props her head on her folded legs before beginning her next statement. It is a well-practiced dance that requires little rehearsal.
“It’s possible to have something be something more than just for sustenance and survival, you know. You should try biting into it.”
“But if I don’t like it, I’ll never want to eat pomegranates again, and I like them.”
“You just like being able to take them apart, piece by piece, and enjoy them in all of their vulnerability.”
His laugh is short, punctual. “Life’s about the destination, not the journey.”
She groans in amused frustration. “You have to know that’s not true.”
He shrugs. He peels away the white membrane, revealing succulent seeds underneath. The echoes of amusement at the familiar debate dwindle into a volcanic silence. The sharpness of her words is a reprieve from the angry hush.
“I’ll be back, you know.”
“I know.” He crushes one of the seeds as he responds, the opalescent red juice snaking down his palm. He pauses for a moment, rebuking himself internally.
“It’s just something I have to do.”
He sighs, placing the now empty portion down before picking up the second half of the complicated fruit. “I know.”
Her silence is punctuated by frustrated breathing that strangles in her throat. “I’ll never stop loving you. I’ll never stop wanting us to be everything we are now.”
He glances up and stares intently into her eyes. “I know.”
“God dammit. Can’t you say anything else?!” Her frustration rings through the peaceful setting. A blue heron that had been angling its way through the water ascends in a majestic manner, and she lifts her head from her knees, her eyes tracing its graceful path.
He shrugs. “What else can I say that I haven’t said already? That the many late nights of frustration and tears haven’t already engraved into our system? It’s not like anything I say will change what you do. I could ask you to stay. Do you want me to do that?”
She looks at him, eyes bright and focused on the arch of his eyebrows. “It would be easier.”
“I could ask you to stay, and you might. But you would be unhappy because you would know that you could have left. That you had an opportunity and you ignored it. For me? No. I know you. You need every single element of engagement you can get. You can’t handle sitting still, letting a comfortable routine ensnare you. You can’t handle appreciating a beautiful thing for what it is, you have to tear it apart and understand what makes it beautiful. You have to leave and you know it. You’re not capable of forgiving yourself if you don’t.”
“I wish you would come with me.”
He pauses, glancing up at her with a weighted smile. “You know I can’t do that. I’ll never be able to build myself back up the way that you can. I can’t go somewhere else and make it a home and then leave it when I’m called away again. I need my routine.”
“I know.” She puts her head back on her knees, a meaningless comfort.
She reaches over to grab a pomegranate seed and knocks the bowl over, spilling some of the seeds. “Shit.”
Scrambling, they pick up the seeds from the miscellaneous crevices they had escaped to and place them back into the bowl.
“Think they’re still edible?”
“Pssshh. Five second rule.” The mirth in his voice is a comfort.
“That was more than five seconds.” Laughter sings through her words.
“Time is subjective.”
She laughs, softly punching him in the arm.
“Careful! You want to knock them over again?”
“Five second rule.”
Laughing, he moves to kiss her, pressing his lips to hers. The kiss unfolds, and he places the pomegranate seeds down, wrapping her in his arms as tightly as he can; the silence consuming them as they bask in the precious moment.
As they part, he places the carcass of the fruit into the garbage bag, and leans forward, dipping his hands in the clear water. The red rivulets swirl in the subtly flowing water. Wiping his hands on his pants, he moves closer to her, and puts the bowl of pomegranate seeds in front of them.
She takes a handful of seeds and drops them into her mouth, crunching and savouring as the juice explodes into her mouth. He takes one seed at a time, intently placing them in his mouth before swallowing them.
A car honks, and she looks at him. He gestures at the seeds.
Then she is gone, the silence pregnant with unfulfilled desires and inescapable sorrow.
As the evening dawns, he is still seated on the blanket, and he places the last pomegranate seed into his mouth. His eyes reflect hesitation; a decision is made.
His taste buds dance in response to the unfamiliar flavour, the explosion in his mouth accompanied by tears pooling in his eyes before they silently rush forth; the only sign of their existence is the manner in which they are reflected by the moonlight.