A Non-Fiction Story by Evie Groch
A simple naval orange, right here in front of me, bright, juicy, and a main ingredient for what I’m about to make to celebrate the Festival of Purim, something my parents had to do in secret in eastern Europe. When I slice the orange open, I’m transported to the infirmary I was in during a sixteen day voyage on a freighter from Bremen, Germany, to New Orleans, USA, my entry point. An infirmary like a cell. I had the measles. Couldn’t eat. Forlorn, isolated, and only three years old. What were they thinking? Anger rises in me yet. My father, my hero, sneaked in to my cell in the evenings with sweet, juicy oranges, something I could easily swallow.
“Hayale,” he called me, the diminutive for Haya, or Alive, Living in English. “Try these, or at least suck the juice out.” These golden orbs nourished me and became my diet. How I take them for granted now, these sunbaked treasures.
My nose twitches. Why now? Because I am remembering other smells on board, not so nice smells. God, I hated the urine-stained mattresses we slept on out of the infirmary. The smell nauseates me even today, having imprinted on my senses a stench steeped in poverty, rationing, refugees, and those of little hope. I still haven’t completely shed these labels after so many years. But luckily, there were other aromas to offset these. I can inhale them now in my mind. Strange smells, new to me, but more common to me now than ever before. How did they first reach me? When did I first taste the food connected to the smell? When did I accept them? It didn’t happen all at once.
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