Wedding Night: We Share an Heirloom Tomato on Our Hotel Balcony Overlooking the Ocean in Which Natalie Wood Drowned
We imagine Natalie held a gelatinous green sliver on her tongue, that its watery disk caught the lamplight before she slipped from her yacht to drown in the waves off this island. This was thirty years ago. And our tomato’s strain stretches back decades, to an heirloom seed saved before either of us was born, before Natalie’s elbow brushed the clouded jade face of the ancestral fruit in a Catalina stand, before she handed it to her husband, saying, This one. We hover near the plate, where the last half of our shadowed tomato sits in its skin’s deep pleats. I lean toward you to trace each salted crease with a thumbnail— brined and wild as those lines clawed in the green side of the yacht’s rubber dinghy. Those lingering shapes the coroner found—the drowned actress’s scratch marks. That night we first met, I had another lover but you didn’t care. My Bellini’s peach puree, our waiter said, had sailed across the Atlantic, from France. It swirled as I sipped and sank to the glass bottom of my champagne flute. You whispered, Guilt is the most useless emotion. After Natalie rolled into the waves, the wet feathers of her down coat wrapped their white anchors at her hips. This was 1981. I turned a year old that month and somewhere an heirloom seed washed up. You felt an odd breeze knock at your elbow as I took my first step. We hadn’t yet met. Tonight, we watch the wet date palms tip toward the surf and, curling, swallow their tongues.
Copyright © 2013 by Anna Journey. From Vulgar Remedies (Louisiana State University Press, 2013). Used with permission of the author.