In the pit of the peach I had bitten I found an earwig. I'd looked forward to eating this peach. The woman I lived with had brought it home from the produce stand she always passed on her walk from the bus stop. The peach came in its own individual carton with the fruit shape formed in clear plastic. The peach had a damp looseness to its weight. It felt heavy, not like a tomato or an apple, but as loose and as heavy as a globe of flesh. Fiber and skin. Skin because it had hair almost like a person's skin. Hence the phrase, peach fuzz. Skin not like my own skin with its haze of wiry and black hair. This was a young woman's skin. Unlike any kind of woman I've ever known.
The woman I live with shaves her legs, leaving scrubby calves and underarm shrapnel. I was a late bloomer in the girl department, waiting until the girls my age had begun to get under-eye-shrivel and cynicism before I made them take a second look at me, and listen to me through my timid stammers, or rather because of my softly spoken lisp. I didn't mind so much, because at 16 I was covered in hair as coarse and thick as a dime store paintbrush, and by 18 I had five o'clock shadow that grew into an actual, tuggable beard by the last school bell. At an age when most boys swagger and do a hundred push-ups without straining their smile, I already had the onset of thick hairy, wobbly middle age. I had to wait until those girls caught up with me. I had to wait a long time.
I do not get nearly enough sleep or enough exercise. I do not get enough of the basic creature comforts. I do not get enough.
What I do get I earn by performing labor, by selling my desire to do something else by the hour. The woman I live with buys fruit by the pound, and the woman I work for buys my time by the hour. All of these increments to measure my trade-in-value.
I earn time wearing my not necessarily professional attire at my workplace where I sit in my cubicle and listen to contemporary German music with guitars and synthesizers because I enjoy the industrial sound of men uttering and screaming and cajoling in German under the guise of heavy metal music. I enjoy this because it provides a gothic movie soundtrack to my work. I sit at one desk in a row of desks that faces over the space between my skyscraper and the next tower, and the next, through a landscape of vertical faces. Sometimes seagulls soar through this space, and they are specks drifting through the unchanging matrix of lines and grids. Sea mist, too, comes up from the bay that I can just see between the buildings if I stand in several worn spots in the hallway of an office where I labor. And I do sometimes do that, five minutes out of every hour to keep my eyestrain in check, to keep my productivity up because what I do for a living, which is data entry, is not a human task, but the task of taking what is human and making it machine.
I normalize data. This is my professional designation: Data Entry Technician IV. I was the manager of this data entry unit but -- predictably -- in the change of management from the old paradigm to the new paradigm, I lost my place and have become subjected to the new Quality Assurance Evangelist, or as we call her the QAE. Even though she has a mustache, she believes in error-free work the way some people believe in abstinence. Error is an avoidable but inevitable human sin punishable by an eternity of flames.
There was an earwig in my peach.
I don't know how long it had been there because when I bit into the peach, through the aforementioned peach fuzz and sat down on the chair looking out onto the patio in the dusk, illuminated by the little candles I'd lit, with a cup of hot, honey sweetened tea at my side, I thought about other peaches I'd eaten and how this peach didn't taste like the other peaches I'd eaten, and in fact this peach had a kind of woody flavor. On the next bite, I tasted a harsh chemical, acid taste, although it was clearly biological, and not a congealed pesticide wad that had lodged into the fruit. I assessed the state of my peach, and I was eating something from inside the peach at first I thought mold, and then only when I pulled out the pit and uncovered the earwig waiting in the interior folds of the peach surrounded not by mold but earwig larva bathed in slime did I realize that I had been eating earwig larva, and I dropped the peach. The earwig began to scurry away.
I took the spoon I had used to mix in the honey into the tea and stunned the earwig, and then I rolled the spoon back and forth until I had crushed the earwig's exoskeleton, and I cleaned up his remains with a paper towel. I threw the rest of the peach into the trash. I drank my tea and gargled. I brushed my teeth and took a shower.
The woman I lived with came into the bathroom on some hygiene errand, then, and asked me what I was doing in the shower and I told her I was taking a shower. I didn't tell her I was taking a shower because I had eaten baby earwigs. I think she thought I was taking a shower because I wanted to get-it-on and she said it was getting late and she was turning in.
She was reading some books her carpool friend had given her. She wanted to read and go right to sleep, she said. She said it slowly so that I could hear it through the whirl of water coming down in the shower. I mean I don't count on these kinds of things. "I am just taking a shower," I told her.
"What does that mean?" she asked me. "I can see and hear that you are taking a shower. You aren't being redundant are you?"
"Sometimes," I said, "a shower is just a shower." The thought then of getting-it-on which had been eradicated completely by eating baby earwigs now that we were avoiding talking about it made me think about it perhaps too much. I did have a mint-fresh mouth. But even more than getting-it-on, I wanted to tell her about the experience of eating baby earwigs and then uncovering the earwig in the middle of a piece of fruit that I had been eating. I wanted to tell her all about this, but I didn't even know how to tell the woman I lived with these things. The earwig in the exact center of the peach half was beautiful. It had a copper casing with dark blue streaks going down to the bright blue claws coming out of its back. The peach gave freely of its white, sweet, nectar infused flesh.