In the corner of my dorm room there is a container of Naked Juice. It boasts mangoes, oranges, apples, bananas, all of the requisite nutrients in the most efficient packaging. I haven’t yet opened it, but I feel the memory rising to the tip of my tongue as I write this, a rich, murky sweetness struggling under the medley of fruits warmed to room temperature. I’ve purchased it more times than I count, relying, a little clumsily, on the dependable array of fruits.
Before I arrived on campus, I never really had to worry about eating enough fruit. This isn’t to say that I didn’t have my own host of nutritional problems when I lived at home, or even that fresh fruit was always on hand. But I knew that if I reached out, my parents would respond in kind – often with cut fruit.
To many, an apple with breakfast or a bowl of fruit to close the night isn’t the pinnacle of affection.
But when I didn’t know how to ask for help, I asked for fruit.
There is a vulnerability inextricable from the process of deciphering oneself, an unraveling and an understanding of things perhaps better left buried. Making yourself comprehensible is a trial twofold; first, you unfold yourself, then you gather the courage to present the graceless mass to another.
Never have I struggled with this more than with my parents. Given everything they’ve sacrificed so that I can have the opportunities that I do, it feels important that I never present myself as anything less than utterly capable. It’s the least that I can do, I tell myself, so that they don’t have to worry, so that I can repay them.
Maybe understandably, the times I’ve tried to communicate – few and far between – ended up lopsided and ultimately unsuccessful, each of us attempting to bridge an insurmountable gap with little idea of what lay on the other side.
In the years since, I’ve grown away from them, grown inward. At this point it’s a futile thought experiment, a pipe dream of an idealized relationship that I no longer remember.
And there is a detachment in that – a chasm that presses back upon itself, a distance absent of loneliness – but there is never a lack of love. Our parents give everything they know how to give and try to give more; we accept, we struggle forth, gracelessly, and the stalemates we reach are hard-won, invaluable, impossibly easy to lose and crystallized in memory. It is the love language of a liminal space, forever mercurial and yet – in all these years – I have never once doubted its strength.
I cannot ask for a shoulder to cry on, I cannot ask for the solutions to problems I don’t know how to put to words – I cannot ask for them to accept someone I’m afraid of giving up.
But I can ask for the fruits I love, the dishes buried deep in my memory and my heart. I can ask for solace. I can ask to be taken care of, because I know that, despite everything, they will always try their best to meet me there.
Today I reach for the Naked juice. I unscrew the cap, wince at the overfamiliar taste, and force the lukewarm sweetness down. It won’t keep over break, and I have no reason to bring it home with me.