21st Century Woman

Watermelon and Ryan

I was at the grocery store on Saturday night and looked hard at the watermelons that seemed so out of place on an otherwise fall night. Yet—the melons were the right color and the thunk was proper, so I grabbed one and put it in my cart anyway. Even later that night, I was on Facebook just as messages started to appear saying that a high school classmate of mine had passed away suddenly. It caught my breath. Not because it was a death, but because it was his death.

He was bright and funny and kind and lovely. I didn’t even know him that well, but I knew all of those things to be true. The next day, I found myself alone in the kitchen, quietly cutting up the watermelon. I would methodically make a slice, then will the melon to release from the rind. Meanwhile, I thought of Ryan. There is only one vivid memory of the few I have of him. We were sitting on a stage, waiting for rehearsal to begin, and as I turned in his direction, I caught him looking longingly at a classmate. He caught me catch him. We paused, and then we laughed.

I finished cutting the melon and put the pieces into containers in the fridge to cool. I took the rinds, now empty and somehow sacred, and placed them carefully in a bag. They were strangely beautiful even when they had been cleared of their color. Later that night I took the watermelon out of the fridge. and I ate the cold pieces one by one over the sink, thinking of him.

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