There is an orange grove behind my house that stretches out further than I can even see. It’s presence has been known to me since I was a kid, and it was the only thing strong enough to overpower the scent of burning cigarettes that seemed to stick to the walls and my skin like oil, or the feeling of guilt. It wrapped its arms around me, surrounding me in it’s floral scent, and showed me what summers could mean if I was brave enough.
Before I moved to this house with the orange grove, summers meant sweat, and thirst, and wondering whether they were in a good enough mood to give me dinner that night. It means guilt for hating them, and confusion because aren’t you supposed to love your parents? Summers were hours spent locked in the bathroom because they didn’t care enough about me to yell at me over the sound of the water from the shower running. They were too tired, because summers also meant cheap fans bought from secondhand stores, that broke in only a few weeks.
The orange grove was safety. It was shade to cool me down when I ran here because he was drunk. It was a feast for one, the only time I was ever really full. After my hands where sticky from the juice of dozens of oranges, and my stomach bulged out, I layed down on the soft, overgrown grass, and looked up at the sky and the clouds. Sometimes I dozed off.
One day, when I came to orange grove, it looked like it normally did, with its endless trees and blue skies and overgrown grass, but today, there was a person there. A girl, sitting in the patch of grass I normally sat in after I ate too many oranges.
Sometimes when I came here, there were other people too. A mother playing with her child, some kids who ran around for a few hours, then went back to their houses in search of food and TV.
The girl was about my age. She was laying down, looking up at the clouds. She seemed at peace with herself. She wore a simple white dress, and her hair curled around her waist as she stood up, apparently startled. I watched as she looked around, then realized it must have been because of me. I stepped forward and cleared my throat, and she turned around to look at me.
I had never seen anyone with eyes as intense as hers. They were all different colors-brown, green, and gold all mixed together- and they glittered underneath the summer sun as she searched me for danger. She must have realized how scrawny and weak I looked, because she smirked and walked towards me.
I hadn’t talked to another soul in weeks, since school got let out for the summer. My heart raced, and sweat dripped down my back as I thought about what to say to her. I wasn’t good at talking to people, to be quite honest. Even if I wasn’t scared of them, I think my mind is weary about people. More specifically, letting them know me. I settled on a casual ‘hello’, but before I could muster up the word, she walked past me, the scent of oranges on her olive skin, and began to run.
I watched her run; not as though she was escaping something, but as if she was daring me to join her. But I didn’t. I had enough careless people in my life already, and really, how different was being carefree?