The ward is quiet this afternoon, save for Sherri’s tinny radio out the hallway and the hard plastic vertical blinds thwapping together any time a thin breeze wafts in.
Ester’s mouth is unbearably thick and pasty dry. There are sandpaper bumps along her tongue. Tastes like death, she thinks. She’d know.
At the foot of the gurney, someone — an orderly, probably — has left a plate. A grey mound of turkey loaf, some gelatinous peas, and a small round navel orange.
Ester doesn’t know how long the food’s been sitting there. She must have slept though someone coming in. She sleeps most her days now, as she clumsily lumbers towards a sort of… recovery. Whatever that is.
The orange practically glistens at the end of the bed.
Of course, she can’t eat it anyway. Her jaw’s wired shut. She eats from an IV bag direct to her veins.
Her mouth is so dry, heat waves could roll off her tongue.
Damn, I want that orange. Ester thinks.
If only her arms weren’t hung up in these slings to keep the swelling down.
I don’t even like oranges, Ester reminds herself. She hates peeling them. She hates it so much that, when she was little, she had a recurring dream that she could hold her hand over an orange and it would spin magically on the table, shedding its coat without her touch.
I would decimate that orange, she thinks. And she would know what that looks like — someone big tearing into something so soft and small.
If only her legs weren’t full of pins and cast in layers of plaster and gauze.
Ester’s mouth tastes like poison now.
I want that damn orange. Just to smell it. Just to peel it. Just to hold the wedges in her mouth and suck the juice from the carpels. Ester thinks of the dream. Of how easy it was then, to unwrap the fruit. She imagines it spinning like a top on the kitchen counter. She outstretches her fingers on her left hand, the only appendages not covered in bandages.
I want that damn orange.
And just for a brief second, the fruit wabbles in place on the plate.
Ester gasps. Must be the drugs they’ve got me on, she justifies. But her tongue is so dry, she could choke on it. Sherri isn’t coming anytime soon. What have I got to lose?
She spreads her fingers again, this time with as much fervor as her broken body will muster. Come here, orange, she wills.
Come here. It quivers again.
She thinks of all the times before all the bad.
When it was easy.
When there wasn’t any hurt.
Come here, you orange!
The fruit launches off the plate and rockets into her outstretched hand like a magnet.
And then Ester knows it’s not going to be like it was before.
It’s going to be different now, she knows.
Ellen Chorley is an Edmonton-based playwright and theatre artist. She is the Festival Director of the Nextfest Arts Company which produces Edmonton’s emerging arts festival Nextfest, the Academy Director of Theatre Network’s Summer Academy. Her play Everybody Loves Robbie was recently awarded the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Outstanding New Play (2020) and she was named one of Edify’s Top 40 Under 40 (Class of 2013).
This article appears in the March/April 2023 issue of Edify