One of my last days with Mary Beth ended with her laughing jubilantly on a hill overlooking an old apple orchard in Tipton, Michigan.
Every year the man who made her happier than life itself sends me a box of apples from his orchard, real apples. Northern spies are my favorites.
The aroma of apples fills our home before we open the box. Bees fertilized the flowers back when the sun was still headed towards the solstice. The bees are dead. The apples scream life.
I do not get what this thing called life is all about, at least not when words do not get in the way. I do know happiness even past the grief, and she did, too. She knew.
What's left of her has seeped into that same hill, her dust mixed with our tears.
Wasn't sure I'd ever enjoy eating apples again. Not sure they ever tasted better than they do now.
In a culture that fears death so much that we pretend it does not exist, rejoicing in the flavor, the texture, the sound of my teeth crunching into a fruit with its own mixed history may seem morbid, and it is.
I eat the whole apple except the stem. The seeds have an amaretto nuttiness, a sweet reminder of death itself--the amygdylin breaks down into tiny doses of cyanide. A few of my mitochondria seize up every time I eat an apple.
Not enough to kill me, of course, but just enough to remind me that I, too, will return to the ground with the bees and uneaten apples and everything else that has known joy.