Feb '03 [Home]


A Rotten Peach

Erin A. Dickerson

. ... There is something about the first time you taste a peach. It is as if, for a couple of minutes, heaven is dancing on your tongue. I guess everyone associates his favorite food with some special event in his life. For me, well, when I think of peaches, I think of the first time I met the peach girl. (Except, that time, the peach wasn't exactly heaven.)
          The nurse's office at school is kind of a second home for me. Since freshman year, I've been in there at least once a week for three years. When I waltzed in there that day, I thought it would be just another ordinary visit. There was a girl at the counter and Nurse Kathy was bent over a drawer, thumbing through folders. As the door clicked closed behind me, Kathy glanced up. Recognizing me, she straightened her back and threw up her hands.
          "Come now, Peter! It's only the first day and already you in here?"
          "You know I just couldn't wait another day to see you again, Nurse Kathy." She was a plump, Slavic woman, who barely reached my aching shoulder. Half of my visits to her had been right after playing football in gym.
          Kathy raised one pencil-drawn eyebrow and took two seconds to study my hunched shoulder and give me a diagnosis. "All right, I get you some ice." She patted my cheek lightly and walked into the back room, muttering, "I don't know how you going to live to the age of twenty." That was her favorite line.
          As I waited, I sorted through the fruit basket that Nurse Kathy kept on the counter, and noticed that the last peach was already in the possession of the girl standing next to me. All she was doing was twisting her long, golden hair with one finger, while the peach just sat there next to her arm, calling me. Oh, how delicious it looked! I could tell it was about to burst with juice. It was perfect and, believe me, I can tell a perfect peach when I see one. Slowly, my hand crept across the counter and seized the pulpy prize! Ha ha! Victory was…
          "Hey! What are you doing? That's my peach!" the girl screeched.
          "What are you talking about? This is my peach," I said with affected astonishment and raised the peach to my lips.
          "Don't eat it!"
           I stopped short. "Well what else am I going to do with it? Use it as a football?"
          "Fine. Go ahead. I hope you enjoy it," she said with an expression of amusement forming on her face. I was suspicious, but my mouth was beyond my control, and I sank my teeth into the soft flesh.…
          "Oh my God!" I cried out, peach pulp and juice flying and dripping out of my mouth. "What is this? This is disgusting. What did you do to it?"
          "Me? Look at you! You're disgusting. First you take my peach, and now you're spitting it out all over the counter! I told you not to eat it."
          I forgot about the ice and ran out of the office to get the first drink I could find.
          I stood washing my mouth out at the fountain, as my friend Chris approached me. "Hey, slow down there."
          "You would be drinking a river, too, if some psycho had just shoved a compost heap into your mouth."
          "Uh… anyway, I've got good news, bro'. My sister has this new friend and I think she would be perfect for me to set you up with. She's a real peach. So, what do you say?"
          "Peach? Chris, do you remember the last girl you set me up with? She was no peach, let me tell you. She was more like a raisin, all dried up and… Or maybe she was more of a…"
          "Peter, don't worry. She's your type of fruit. She's hot. I'll catch you later."
          Friday night, I stood outside Suzie's Chinese Restaurant on Bleecker Street, waiting for Georgia, my supposedly hot date, to walk up any second. I had a really good feeling about that night. The air was warm and I looked pretty irresistible with my gelled hair and varsity jacket, if I may say so myself. I didn't think anyone was within earshot, so I started practicing my lines out loud. "You know, your skin's as soft as a peach…"
          "Do you always talk to yourself?" a voice said from behind me. I whirled around to see a girl now sitting on the bench outside the restaurant.
          "You! You're the crazy rotten peach girl!"
          "First of all, my name is Georgia. Second of all, are you sure you should be calling me the crazy one? What are you doing?"
          Georgia? Uh-oh!
          "I'm waiting for my date. What are you doing?"
          "I'm waiting for my date, but I'm doing it silently."
          "Yeah, okay. Who would ever date you? If you ever cooked dinner for him, he'd probably die after the first bite!"
          Actually, now that I was getting a good look at her, she didn't look all that bad. She had golden-toned skin and plump lips. I bet she tasted great. In fact, she would have been perfect for me, except that I had already started insulting her, and I would have seemed crazy if all of a sudden I started acting nice.
          "I'm sure he is very attractive and has a great personality," she retorted with a slight smile.
          "Yeah? Well,my date is gorgeous and doesn't poison peaches."
          "Fine. Have fun."
          We stood in silence while I pretended to wait for my date. Then I asked, "So, why was that peach so bad?"
           "What?… Oh. I just got diabetes and I have to give myself shots of insulin, but it is all very new to me, so I practice giving the shot to a piece of fruit before I do it to myself… What? Why are you looking at me like that?"
          "Huh? Oh. I was listening, I just…"
          I didn't know what to say. I couldn't take my eyes off her. Chris was right. She was perfect for me, but I couldn't let her know that, and I wondered whether she realized that she was my blind date.
          "I promise I won't ever take your peach again." Oh! That was too nice. I needed an insult quickly. "So, looks like your date stood you up."
          "Looks like yours did, too."
          Damn! She was too quick for me. "Well, good night, Georgia."
          "Good night…" She started walking away.
          "Peter," I said.
          She hesitated. "'Night, Peter." She kept walking.
          From that day on, I made sure I needed ice every day, and it drove Nurse Kathy crazy.
          "Hey, Nurse Kathy."
          "Peter! I think you never gonna live to the age of twenty."
          "Oh, Nurse Kathy, I'll survive." I leaned closer to her ear. "You see, I'm not really hurt. I just want to see that girl."
          "Georgia. You know, that girl who comes in to shoot up the fruit."
          "So this is why you use up all my ice and bandages? For some girl? Ha! Crazy kids," she laughed, shaking her head. "She comes in at twelve to take the insulin."
          "Thanks, Nurse Kathy."
          "Now, get out of here before I hurt you myself. And, Peter, I make sure you don't live to the age of twenty." She shooed me out of her office.
          For the next few weeks, I couldn't stop thinking about Georgia. I would see her walking down the halls of the school, but I couldn't go up to her. What was I supposed to say? I asked Chris for advice, but he only slapped me on the shoulder and said, "Man, grow some balls!" So I thought about the upcoming big dance. That's when I would make my move. I spent the night before the dance practicing old lines, making up new ones, and getting nowhere.
          In the dim, decorated gymnasium, I stared at her all night. Every time a new song came on, I would start to walk towards her to ask her to dance, but my feet seemed to have their own destination—somewhere far away from her. She danced with other guys, but all I could do was stand against the wall and try to look as if I were too cool for her. Finally, the last song came on, and my feet obeyed me. I walked towards her and tapped her on the shoulder. As she turned around, I held a peach up in front of her.
          "All right, what did you do to it?" she asked.
          "Nothing. This is to repay you for the one I took… and to ask you to dance."
          She took the peach and pressed it to her lips. Then she smiled, took a bite and led me out onto the dance floor.


(Erin A. Dickerson is a senior at the Bronx High School of Science. This is her second appearance on the magazine.)