Cursing herself and her tomb of a marriage, Sunshine picked up her basket, rested it on her hip and swayed out of the yard. She went to a neighbor’s field to pick wildflowers and went down to the river to rest them on a small mound of earth. With fluttering eyelids, she imagined the twisted blue creature sleeping within. The seed, their seed, that never got the chance to become a boy. Who knew this mini mountain, this bump on God’s land would suck the love from Talley’s heart? A dead clump of flesh surrounded by red dirt buried every caress, every lustful look, every semblance of desire Talley ever felt for his wife. After evenings of singing skin, nights of fire and wet kisses, and early mornings groaning oh-my-god, there was finally silence. Nothing, no amount of whispered remembrances or pleas from Sunshine’s lips could court Talley back into bed with her. His hands, no longer open and caressing, were closed bitter fists. He held them still, did not beat her with them, but blamed her with every withheld touch.
Sunshine tightened her arms around her basket as an arrow of isolation shot through her body. Everybody knows every seed planted wasn’t meant to grow the midwife had consoled her. She stood and turned away from the grave, her heart raging, her teeth biting irritation into the soft inside of her cheek. When her heavy steps had carried her to the market, she halted. She could see people milling around, produce in hand, but she wasn’t ready to enter. She wished she wasn’t so stubbornly proud, then she could sit down, rest her basked on the ground, and unpeel her sorrows. Sunshine wiped the dampness from her forehead and temples and turned away from the market. She took one step forward and almost ran into Miss Millie.
“How is you, girl child?” Miss Millie asked coaxing dimples to the surface of her face with a smile.
“I’m fine, Miss Millie, just fine.”
“Well whatcha waitin on, for the produce to jump in your basket? You gon miss all the good stuff standing here like a frightened lil’ girl.”
“Seem like no matter how early I get here, everybody still here before me,” Sunshine said with a pout.
Miss Millie laughed and tugged at Sunshine’s arm. Sunshine followed, head down, barely taking in the chaos around her, keeping her eyes trained on her feet. Miss Millie deposited Sunshine at the tomato cart.
“These tomatoes is fresh, an’ red as the devil. You start here,” Miss Millie said wagging an authoritative finger. Sunshine nodded her head obediently.
“I going to Miss Jay’s booth. Chile, I got to get my gossip before I market,” Miss Millie whispered and pinched Sunshine’s fat fleshy arm.
“O.K. Miss Millie,” Sunshine giggled, “make sure you come by and tell me who’s actin up.”
“Don’t worry, honey. You come by an’ help me make my stew and I’ll tell anything you wanna know,” Miss Millie said with a wickedly raised eyebrow.
Turning her attention to the tomatoes, Sunshine rested her basket at her feet. As she stood to collect tomatoes, she caught a child, maybe the daughter of the tomato lady, biting into a tomato as if it were an apple. The red fruit, the dripping juice, the child’s unveiled hunger called Sunshine’s attention. She stared, as the child bit and swallowed and wiped her mouth with the back of a sticky hand. After a couple of bites, the child looked up, locking into Sunshine’s eyes with a glance. Sunshine immediately dragged her eyes down to her empty basket. Heat flared to her cheeks. She could still see the ravenous child and the half-devoured fruit, but she blinked away the vision.
She reached out and palmed a tomato. She lifted it and squeezed, testing its plumpness. Dissatisfied, she dropped it back into the pile. She went on lifting and squeezing until she found four to her liking. As her fingers grazed the curve of the fifth, something soft brushed against the sheltered flesh of her inner arm. Her head jerked up and she looked over her shoulder. A woman was standing next to her, taking no notice of her. Turning back to the tomatoes, she resumed her hunt, the touched flesh of her arm aroused. Accident or not, Sunshine missed the brush of skin against skin. The woman roused the memories of skin cells. They rose from slumber with low dissatisfied hum.
Sunshine collected six, seven, eight more tomatoes. As Sunshine was stretching towards the ninth, the woman’s breast collided with her arm. Sunshine froze. Her arm stayed extended, her eyelids slid closed. The pleasurable weight of the stranger’s flesh caused her to breathe in deeply. Within seconds the contact was over. Sunshine opened her eyes to find the tomato lady staring at her. She forced a smile and glanced behind her, just in time to see the stranger plodding away from the tomato cart, unaware of her impact on Sunshine’s day. Embarrassment spread over Sunshine’s face as she realized the tomato lady was still staring at her. She quickly gathered up two more tomatoes, paid the woman in coins and left the cart.
The strange market intimacies continued at the doubly-crowded banana cart. Arms brushed against her waist, elbows rubbed against her back, wrists collided with her butt. She reached around an old man to grab a healthy bunch of bananas then paused to pay. She pressed her folded bills into the banana man’s calloused hand. While he counted out her change, she noticed his smooth throat exposed by his casually open collar. She leaned forward, under the guise of waiting for her change, and inhaled his clean, fresh scent. Eyes glued to the hollow of his brown brown throat, Sunshine resisted the urge to embrace him, to press tongue against chest and gather up his taste. Instead she turned away, dumping her bananas into her basket, twisting her change into her handkerchief and moving on to the onions.
There was no one gathered at the onion man’s cart. He smiled at her with beautiful white teeth.
“No one is buying from you today?” she asked.
“They are,” he said and stood, arching his body into a long stretch, “but they are all in a frenzy over the yams.”
Sunshine followed the direction his finger was pointing in. Directly across from the onion cart, a crowd was gathered.
“He had a special crop this month,” the onion man explained. “Word got out last week that he has double the sweet potatoes and they are doubly sweet. The people are going crazy.”
Sunshine eyed the crowd.
“What are you waiting for girl? Leave your basket here, go get some. Don’t you want to bring home a treat for your husband?”
Sunshine looked at him out of the corner of her eye and said nothing. He reached for her basket. She let him pull it from her hands.
“Go,” he said. “Come back for my onions.”
Without asking another question Sunshine hurried over to the sweet potato stand. She circled the outer rim of the crowd, but couldn’t find an opening. She looked back at the onion vendor. He was motioning for her to go closer. She sighed and placed her hand flat against a man’s broad back. As the man turned toward her, she squeezed into the crowd. Slowly she began moving forward, pushing herself between bodies with her elbow and her hip. When no amount of pushing would get her any further, she knew she was near the front. She clasped her hands behind her neck and waited.
The urgency of the market goers clustered around her was a thick tangible thing. A prickly heat slowly invaded her body. She lowered her hands and pressed her palms against her thighs. Something soft brushed against the back of her neck. Her hand rose up to rub it away, but it hit against something moist. She turned but could barely see behind her. Was that a mouth, she wondered? A sweaty cheek? The pace of her breath escalated as she imagined lips kissing the nape of her neck. A force she identified as body heat curled around her body. It dipped down her back, slid into the crease of her buttocks, and settled between her thighs. Without thinking, she began to rub her thighs together, coaxing the heat to her skin’s surface.
Little by little, the crowd fell away from Sunshine’s consciousness. The woman in front of her ceased to exist. The bony hip pushing into her side was no longer disturbed her. Her muscles took interest in only one form—a hard chest resting against her back. Swaying in the airless crowd, Sunshine brushed against his pelvis. The minute she touched him, a current jumped between her legs. She immediately severed contact, leaning forward ever so slightly. She turned again to look behind her, but she saw only jaw. No identifying arch of eyebrow or curve of nose. She shifted under a sudden dizziness. She needed air, but her body needed the sensation that was making her dizzy. As she fought to hold her body still, her back was arching back, disobediently seeking him out. She took a deep breath and settled her softness against him. She felt his hand on her neck. She closed her eyes and began to tremble.
The man leaned toward her and poured his breath, strong and heavy, into her ear. “I want you,” she heard his breath whisper without him saying a word. She opened her eyes abruptly, suddenly aware that she was surrounded by eyes. Eyes like Miss Millie’s who wouldn’t hesitate to spread the story around town. She could hear the sucking teeth now, whispering her name, shaming her for acting so in public with some stranger with her poor heartbroken husband at home and her dead baby cold in the ground.
All the faces around her were facing forward. No one seemed to notice her tiny pelvic movements, the stranger’s hardness. Even in anonymity, she felt disgraceful. The heavy hunger of her body driving her into hussy-like boldness. Without a warning, she lunged away without looking back. She pushed through the crowd, ignoring the grumbling irritated mouths as she shoved people out of her way. When she cleared the crowd and returned to the onion man, she was shaking.
Published in Stirring Up a Storm: Tales of the Sensual, the Sexual, and the Erotic © 2005