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The Orange by Wendy Cope

It is past one on a Monday, my mind still on the evening before. The day before. Mostly because it was quiet. Go to sleep, my sister whispered to me in the afternoon, as if that explained everything. We lie in bed facing each other. And, without any more preamble, she just closed her eyes.

Look, it’s not as if I am an idiot (although I probably am), but obviously I’ve been having a lot of feelings and I think it’s because I’ve let myself become selfish. I might have forgotten all the times people in my life have told me that I’m too much, so here I am again, letting my gob get away from me, as if I’ve chewed too many emotions in one sitting, which is something an idiot (like me) usually can’t handle.

The days feel like the air is heavy with water. I was drowning. But for some reason, Sunday was quiet. Like it was made specifically just so I could exist.

Do you ever get that, the remembering? You have forgotten that there is another side of you, another version of yourself that’s not so bad, but it’s been so long. And then one day, you suddenly remember, and how that blooms in your chest as a pleasant surprise? It sucks out all your breath for a second—then it comes rushing back, and there it is. Yourself that’s not yourself, but that’s also a part of you.

Which is to say: I slept the whole day. When I woke up, the space between the things I’ve done in my life and the person I am seems to be smaller now.

I think, if I stay still for awhile longer, I’ll be able to make it disappear.

The Orange
Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I got a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

This is from Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope, published by Faber and Faber, 1992.

Comments (2)

  • Robert Goodrich

    The Young Woman on Youth Sunday

    Like a young doe emerging into an open field,
    she stands erect, alert, wide-eyed, motionless,
    driven out by hunger, but hoping to disappear
    into the silence of the sanctuary.
    Who is not drawn to her there,
    sensing dangers she does not yet comprehend?
    Another young woman at the podium
    speaks of the mystical experience
    of encountering animals in the wild.
    We, middle aged or worse,
    are having our own mystical encounter
    with the heartbreaking beauty of youth
    on the cusp of experience.

  • Gosh, how this resonates with me ” … the space between the things I’ve done in my life and the person I am …”


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