The Pepper Vine
She wanted to be a tree like the men she loved. She held herself against them, the men she loved, and hoped that some of their strength would steep in her own body after they left it. She knocked on their chests to listen to their hearts, and marveled at how they seemed to have only one.
She wanted her shoulder blades to grow heavy like boughs, to hold the sky up with her fingertips. She wanted the places where she hollowed to grow firm and unyielding, so that to enter her required an asking. So she would no longer be just for the taking. She wanted to set her feet down and have them grow, for her toes to twist into roots. She could trust the soil to anchor her.
She thought they were so solid, the men she loved. So certain. They stood like emperors, having erupted wherever they pleased and stayed. Because she came from and lay close to the earth, she adored them with the veneration reserved for those who can be approached only from a position of supplication. They too had come from the earth, these trees, these men, but sometimes they forgot.
She tried to love less, because she wanted to be a tree like the men she loved, and trees only know how to love without moving, without changing a thing, without letting down their arms for a single moment to embrace something other than the sky.
She wanted to be a tree like the men she loved, but two trees cannot hug, and she knew that one cannot live forever on the memory of the brush of branches. And she knew. She knew what she loved, what she needed, knew these things without shame or remorse. She knew she could wait among his roots a hundred years, but never would he deign to draw closer. And to ask a tree to bend is to ask it to break. So she counted up her hearts, that conspiracy of cordate leaves. She flexed and untwined the curlicues of her hair, her limbs, gathered up her love in hands so full they could have turned to flower. She crept first close to the earth, and slowly, she learned how to climb.
She loved him, her tree, with every last leaf-shaped heart. She loved him with a flourish, arching up from her tiny roots and thriving all along the great spread of his back, the bark breadth of his chest. She lay against him and listened. She covered him with herself and gave him shelter, just as once she had lain in the sanctuary of his shadow. She wanted to be a tree like the men she loved, but she was really a pepper vine. She shuddered with the power of this, the pleasure, her hearts jangling like bells, her little corns dancing.
Then she lay so close you could no longer tell she had ever been apart from him, except at the place where she threw herself from the height of his boughs, diving with the grace of those who know they are beloved, and tributaried down in a single long vine, a heart-shaped leaf resting gently in the good earth.
Bio: Sharanya Manivannan was born in India in 1985. She is the author of a book of poems, Witchcraft (2008). Her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in Drunken Boat, The Nervous Breakdown, Superstition Review, Killing The Buddha, Pratilipi, Dark Sky Magazine and elsewhere. Sharanya can be found online at www.sharanyamanivannan.com