by Anastasia Jill
Indrina bought honey from the man down the road at ten each morning, squeezing a fresh drop in the vile around her neck. She gifted the remaining goo to me, because she knew she’d never eat it.
“Then why do you buy it?”
Like every other day, she doesn’t answer.
Dipping my fingers into the jar, I eat the sweet pulp until it’s gone. Indrina tinkers with the chain around her neck while I pull at the label, a picture of a small bee smiling over the label, “HONEY: Product of Maryville, TN.”
There’s enough daylight stretched before us to do something more, but I know that we’ll stay sitting in the lot while she pulls out grass blades one by one. Occasionally, she may speak, walk ten paces up and down the block, but this is what we do for the most part.
The Honey Man — the one who sells the food and owns the land — doesn’t mind, or kick us off. When he gets his mail, takes out his trash, or closes his sales stand, he gives us a wave before kicking back up the driveway.
Indrina picks ten blades, placing five against each thigh, but they fall the second she uncrosses. She plays with her necklace again, this time popping the cork and inhaling. “It smells like wood.”
“Well, it does sit in a wooden box all day.”
“Honey’s supposed to be sweet.”
“On your tongue, cariña. Not on your nose.”
The chain plops back down her chest, the honey swaying like the glittered calcite that was once inside. “You don’t have to stay with me, Zeinab.”
“I want to.”
“No you don’t.”
I don’t argue. Instead, I stretch my feet out while she tries to find more grass to pull. The Honey Man comes out, places more jars on the opened cab of his truck. Smiles. Waves. I wave back, Indrina doesn’t. He turns around and heads back to his house.
“He’s way too trusting,” Indrina says.
I ask her what she means.
“If I sold something everyone in town loved, I sure as hell wouldn’t leave it out in the open like that.”
The Honey Man had a ‘good samaritan’ business policy; take honey, leave the money, have a blessed day. This seems to work, I tell Indrina, because he doesn’t have any complaints.
She scoffs, her voice carrying a hint of a sob. “You don’t think anything of kindness until it becomes compulsive.”
Her words had been this cryptic for months, but each time I prodded, she told me to ‘mind my own damn business.’
Today, I didn’t feel like doing that, and I asked her what was wrong.
“This doesn’t feel like nothing.”
Now she rises to her feet, angrily rubbing dirt from her legs. “Who cares how I feel?”
“I do, or I wouldn’t be sitting out here with you everyday.”
She sits down again, and is quiet for a while. The wind stirs up a mess or dirt that reaches up to the sky, making clouds where light once cracked like a failing heart’s chest.
Some time passes, and her voice comes back, vexed. “You didn’t save me any honey.”
My toes sift through a small patch, that turn out to be an ant hill. I brush them off as they bite. “You said you hate honey.”
“I hate a lot of things.”
“So full of edge.”
“I paid for it. I should get some.”
Fed up, I threw the jar into her lap. It sits there for a while, until she stands up again.
“Sit down,” I say.
“No.” She toys with her honey vile again.
This time, I stand. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Her ‘no’ comes more spiteful this time. She throws her body back to the ground, legs pulled up to her chest, teeth gritting against her kneecaps until they bleed. I shove her chin away and clean the mess with a tissue from my pocket.
“If I tell you, you’re gonna think I’m crazy.”
That was hard to envision, given our daily pattern. I told her it was fine, and that she could trust me.
She waits a minute before answering. “Remember when you gave me this necklace?”
It held honey calcite shards that I gifted her because they matched her eyes; I still pretend it doesn’t hurt that they were gone the next day.
“That was the day my step father moved in. I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I come down here to buy honey every morning. I would do that, sit here for a while and sketch, walk around…days I did that were better. The days I couldn’t were worse.”
“What about that day?”
“I didn’t come at all. That night…he came to my room.” Bangs fell into her eyes, her words slurring as she pressed a sore mouth into her legs.
Not knowing what to do, my stupid mouth says, “Why wear the honey, then?”
She shrugs. “It’s with me and it’s lucky. Honey’s supposed to heal wounds and burns.”
I say that I’m sorry, and she perks up, like the conversation never happened. “He hasn’t touched me since.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
She stretches and her shirt rides up, stomach emerging like a little pouch greeting the overcast sun. “It does to me.”
Too much time has passed, and The Honey Man is closing up for the night. This time, he speaks, tells both of us to go on home, calls us sweetheart. The bed of his truck is closed, and his car disappears up the driveway.
I stand up and hold out my hand, her muscles stiff and ligneous against mine, asking her if we can do something else tomorrow. She nods, and I know we won’t, because she will be down here again in the morning.
Taking the jar with me, I lead her away, and we don’t look back.
Anastasia Jill is a queer poet and fiction writer living in the greater Orlando area. Her work has been published or is upcoming with Poets.org, Deep South Magazine, Cleaver Magazine, Dual Coast Magazine, Queer Stories, FIVE:2:ONE, Drunk Monkeys, and more.