The simplicity of citrus
The funny thing is, oranges aren’t really even in season right now. Yet lately I can’t seem to get enough of them. My family has been buying sacks and sacks of oranges; I grab one every time I head out on a walk, the juice making my fingers freeze in the brisk Northeastern April air. Or I have one at 2 a.m., the orange residue working its way under my fingertips as I wonder why I’m still up. Or my sister drops one off for me when I wake up, the citrus bursting on my tongue, forming my first impression of the morning as I lie still neatly tucked beneath my sheets.
Oranges have always seemed like such a normal fruit to me. Orange juice is a staple in any diner and numerous households, and every shitty continental breakfast at a Marriott near the airport has some hardened oranges that you would need a knife to take apart. But really good oranges, truly sweet and never too soft, those seem new every time. Somehow, every orange I’ve eaten in quarantine seems like the perfect one. Reading a book of poetry in the sun, or listening to the midnight rain on my porch by candlelight, they are a taste that I can anchor these moments to.
Tastes have an ability to carry moments with them. Sometimes I ask myself, is this quarantine a time worth remembering? But these oranges allow me to contain the best memories of quarantine, the ones where I dropped whatever piles of online homework I was working on to pursue exactly what I felt like doing, accompanied by an orange. Oranges have the ability to save a moment. Their sweet citrus contains such sunniness within them that it’s almost impossible to feel sad while eating them; from the first fresh waft of their smell, spurting from the peel as it comes apart beneath my fingernails, the corners of my mouth start to lift. They uniquely recall the Floridian sun beneath which they emerge.
All my life, I’ve been someone who has taken pleasure in the little details of life, the extra strokes that seem especially added on. Admittedly, obsessing over the little things is not always good, sometimes making me overanxious. It has also been my saving grace in these times. I notice how the pulpy extracts of the orange make the sides of my fingers stick together with sweetness. An orange often doesn’t break into neat pieces; the papery skin splits easily, and you have to quickly shove it in your mouth to keep the juice from dripping onto your T-shirt. And yet, the slices they are created in make them the perfect fruit to share. So often, at the end of the night, my mother and I will split one as we lie back on the couch, pondering what quarantine still holds for us. What new challenges will make us weep from frustration? What new flower or sunny day or text from a friend will make us huff with unexpected laughter?
While I know this whole piece might read as some weird late night infomercial praising the virtues of The Orange (now just $1.25 a pound!), it’s really just a small thing that brings me flickers of contentment in these times. Quarantine leaves room for the small things. In place of the wild ecstasy of dancing at concerts, I fling myself around my room to angry music I listened to at 16 (and laugh in nervous embarrassment when a family member walks in on me). Instead of treating myself to Kosmos or Chela’s, I try my own hand at cooking (and bite back tears and long strings of expletives when the olive oil jumps out of the pan, burning my inattentive hand). Instead of spending these increasingly warm and sunny afternoons on long hikes with friends, I eat oranges and lie on the grass (and simply smile when I stain my sleeves with a clumsy peeling of the fruit). Yes, every day I continue to dream about what will be when quarantine ends. But in these instances I am peaceful, acknowledging that, regardless of quarantine, this is a good moment.