Tomato growing season in the mid-Atlantic starts in spring. You’re supposed to plant after the last frost. It stretches through the summer—they need at least six hours of sun each day, more if possible—and by August they’re heavy, golden, ripening globes, tugging on the vine. Come September, the harvest is maybe almost-not-quite over: straggling fruit drooping under its own weight, thickly peppery-scented vines gone brown and crisp in the heat.
I bike up to Chris’s apartment, I’m going to read him Bluets. This makes sense because we’re kind of not really broken up. When I get there there’s construction clanging outside and I’m sweating through the navy blue silk chemise I’m wearing. He calls down to me, “Larissa!” over and over, but I don’t notice until I look up and see him leaning out the window.
Growing up I loved eating tomatoes raw, sliced thick but not too thick, speckled with gritty lumps of sea-salt that danced on the tongue. The sweet flesh, the pulpy heart, the slippery seeds. They made my mouth hurt—it was the acidity—but I still wanted it, couldn’t get enough of them. I sit on the bottom of the stairs to unlace my boots and Chris kisses me upside-down, then licks at my neck. My shoulders gleam.
In the kitchen he gets me a glass of water and asks about grad school, corrects my pronunciation of “Benjamin,” as in Walter, asks who else I’m reading—Debord, Hegel, Adorno, Baudrillard. Then he backs me up against the sharp corner of the kitchen island, so it digs into the base of my spine, because I’ve been bad, and kisses my salty neck, and I let him.
That day we fuck a bit like pornographers. My knees up and spread, ass on the marble countertop, braced on my elbows; we sweep away the cutting board, coasters, box of peppermint tea, mortar and pestle which fall to the floor with a clang. It’s early afternoon; the sun pours in and fills the room with light. He presses his forehead against mine, the way we’ve done, and deep inside my chest a feeling wakes up and looks around, assessing the terrain.
He bends me over the stone countertop and fucks me that way too. It’s cold on my skin, my nipples two soft buds quickly losing heat, pressed flat against the marble. I’m making noises on the border of crying but they don’t belong to any real language, none I could translate here. After I come he holds me and we stand there, very still. I’m on tiptoe and it takes me a long time to realize it and sink back down. I shake all over when my heels touch the floor.
On his roof I sit in my blue chemise and read out loud from Bluets while he peels an orange, vibrant in the heat. The light is so rich and hazy that the white of the pith seems to gleam. It drips everywhere, onto the astro-turf, and I lick the juice from his arm.
I read aloud: “Fucking leaves everything as it is. Fucking may in no way interfere with the actual use of language. For it cannot give it any foundation either. It leaves everything as it is.” He makes a thinking noise and asks me to kiss him.
Before I leave to go to work, feeling between my legs the rawness left by our sex, he gives me two pinkish tomatoes from the garden, their skin taut and warm from the sun. They’re not quite ready yet and could ripen one more day. One has a scar that wraps around, but it’s still pretty perfect. The rosy blush of it concentrated and burnished like a pool of liquid gold. I put my mouth on his to thank him and I think of the knife, the slick slices, the salt I’ll grind over them, the way it’ll sparkle, wetly, before dissolving.