If you swallow a seed, a watermelon will grow in your belly. That’s what my sister told me when I was small. I ate watermelon seeds the way golfers eat sunflower seeds, and still no baby for me. When my feelings were hurt, Diego always said I needed to grow a harder skin.
How many times have I watched women in the market thump the hard shells of watermelons, trying to choose a ripe one? Don’t be fooled by their heft, I want to tell them, they should sound hollow. After all, they are 92 percent water. Once that hard shell is cut open, it reveals an inner life that is vibrant and sweet.
A slice of watermelon looks like a smile, but I am not smiling now. My life has been full of pain and passion, sweetness and sorrow. Stuck in this bed, flat on my back, wearing my brace to protect my soft middle, I stare at the mirror over my head and know that this is my death bed.
I call for my easel and paints. Another self-portrait? they ask. I don’t answer as I choose a blood red, mix cobalt blue and lemon yellow to create a verdant green. I draw circles and half moons, paint ripe melons, green melons, cut melons, the red flesh dotted with black seeds. Why paint a seedless melon? I put down my brush. This is my last painting. I’m done. Looking up at my ceiling mirror, I see that everything is upside down, inside out. Don’t mourn the dead, celebrate them. When you think of me, smile.
is a former magazine editor and travel writer. She has a BA degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona and an MS in journalism from Columbia University. She’s the author of hundreds of magazine articles and two non-fiction books, one on Chinese cookery and the other on cowboys. Born and raised on a ranch in Montana, Michele raised her children in New York City. She’s lived and worked in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, and presently lives in Park City, Utah where she skis, hikes and bikes, and has the stories and injuries to prove it.
⚡ Serenity Now, ekphrastic prose poem by Michele Morris after a painting by Benjamin Chee Chee, in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 10, October 2021)
⚡ Remembering the Home Front on Pearl Harbor Day, article by Michele Morris in Ms. magazine (7 December 2012), in which she describes some of her research for her novel, Paper Girls