Pineapple Cure :: A Poem By Kelly Scanlan

Knife in hand, I start cutting into the prickly flesh of the pineapple
that’s lived on my kitchen table for the better part of the week.
Watching the blade uncover the speckled meat, my mind wanders to a
scene over a decade ago, in a cold kitchen, knife against a similarly
prickled specimen, under entirely different circumstances.

We had gotten into a fight, again. It was in the parking lot of a Taco
Bell in his aging pick-up truck after drinking PBR tall boys and
listening to death metal tapes. I don’t remember what the fight was
about specifically, but I remember it was unearthed from an otherwise
benign conversation, one where I voiced my opinion on something. A
stupid opinion. I was stupid. I was so fucking ignorant and useless;
no wonder my family gave me away. I was lucky to have someone put up
with my idiocy because I was so exhausting and insufferable. A
worthless slut.

Having these hateful words hurled at me all over again, feeling
trapped and powerless, I lost it. I slapped him. Incredulous, he
punched me square in the face as hard as he could. I pictured all
those childhood cartoons, stars dancing around their freshly assaulted
scalps and wished I hadn’t come to understand how spot on of a
depiction it was.

We headed to his place in furious silence. He scoured the internet for
ways to reduce swelling and bruising. “Pineapple” he said. “It
contains an enzyme that helps prevent bruising.” He returned from the
store with armfuls of the fruit, and as I chopped and ate, he’d rub my
shoulders, kiss my cheeks, and tell me how sorry he was. He’d never do
it again. I thought back to our first month of dating, where he
screamed at me for some offense, then threw a chair across the room
and punched a hole in the wall. “I just get angry” he said, watching
me shiver with fear. “I’d never hurt you.”

We spent that night at his place, him feeding me pineapple while we
watched Cannibal Holocaust. I’d never seen it, didn’t really care to,
but at his insistence I watched the visceral depictions of animal
cruelty, and the rape scenes, all hitting me with a particular
intensity that just left me completely numb by the time the credits
rolled. My body, like theirs, was not safe nor fully mine anymore. I
was never sure what was going to happen to it, but at least now I knew
about the pineapple cure; the tart sting unable to jolt me to my
senses but enough to help slowly wash away the stains from his hands
or fists or steel toed boots.

Over the next few years, I kept this cure in my back pocket. For the
black eyes to come, the bruising on my arms or around my scalp, or
just my knees from pleading, I’d turn to freshly chopped pineapple and
when the shoulder rubs and “I’m sorry”’s started to disappear, swigs
of whiskey, vodka, or rum, ever-growing in frequency and enthusiasm.
Tacked to my cure was a beaten down sense of necessary silence. I’d
learned to keep my mouth shut after a few drunk pleadings with friends
and even acquaintances left me feeling more alone, though now with a
reputation as a dramatic, attention seeking booze hound. “I don’t want
to get involved”, “Just leave him”, “Well, you shouldn’t have/should
have fought back”, “He’s just an angry guy”, “That sounds extreme, are
you sure?”

And actually, I wasn’t sure of very much at all anymore.

They were right, after all. I did make him angry, no matter how hard I
tried not to; I was always managing to ruin something. When he dragged
me by my hair up the street to a bar, it was because I ruined his
birthday by saying I was concerned with how much he’d already had to
drink. That’s why I lied to the cops when they came looking, tears and
mascara running away from my lashes as I told them not to press
charges. When he trashed the apartment and kicked me in the face, I
was talking to a friend of his about a band we both enjoyed, a band I
knew he hated. I tried my best to work with the lawyer afterwards to
get him out of a jail sentence even though the cops saw him holding me
by the throat on the balcony. I should have moved the discussion
inside. I shouldn’t have mentioned my questionable taste in music to
anyone.

I’ve told a couple of people about the pineapple cure; the bruises you
got from tripping and falling or knocking your elbow against a wall or
drawer could very well benefit! My suggestion is usually met with a
brief puzzled look or a mild “oh, okay” and I wonder if they wonder
how I know this. I remind myself of how the wrong string of words can
inflict so much damage with so little effort – a quick sting of shame,
a panic ridden crying fit in the bathroom, the inability to will my
arms to move or mouth to speak. I’ve found that PTSD has proven to be
as punishing as those all too familiar blows to my body, mind, soul,
and very being, though I’m not yet familiar with anything in the
produce aisle that can ease the pain that’s infiltrated my psyche.

In the kitchen today, I’m just making smoothies. These days I make
more deliberate, purposeful attempts to take care of my body, if only
to remind myself that it is mine. I’m saving the rest of my conquest,
cubed and in the fridge, for more smoothies or later snacking, with no
order or pledge to devour it solely to keep a violent truth from
further blossoming from my eyes.

By Kelly Scanlan

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