The Calculus of a Pea
Mary Sellers Evans
THE BRUISES ringing her wrist were the spring green of a fresh pea. The motions of her fork were precise. I have never known anyone who could so unerringly spear a single pea on a single fork tine, nor have I ever seen anyone who could watch that pea so intently as it moved from plate to mouth. I would ask the universe or a single wise person this—“How can a person chew a single pea?”—but I have no need of the answer. I have watched her do it, so I know.
What is the nutritional value of a pea?
As she chewed, I could see her consider the taste of the pea and its feel on her tongue. I didn't have to be told that she was calculating whether the pleasure of swallowing this solitary pea was worth consuming the calories it carried. Neither did I have to be told that she would excuse herself and head for the bathroom if the disciplined calculus of her bulimia judged that she needed to rid herself of the pea and its calories.
The fork hit her plate. I reached. She dodged. The bruises, of their own volition, lifted her balsa-wood arm away from my needful fingertips. It must have been the bruises. She herself no longer had the strength.
She spun away, trailing the hem of a too-big skirt. It dragged without slowing her flight. My hand closed on nothing but her fine, thinning hair. Seven strands broke off in my grip.
Mary Sellers Evans is a licensed chemical engineer. She is pursuing an MFA in fiction
at Rutgers University in Camden.