It was the clementine that killed me. I peeled it for your lunchbox because you need Fruit to complement the Protein and the Crunchy, and because school lunch is so short and you get busy chatting and if I don't peel it for you and break it into segments, the whole thing comes back home in its BPA-free, nesting container (labeled with your name in silver Sharpie).
It was the peel of the clementine that did it. True, I've always had thin fingernails, and they stay chipped from prying apart your LEGO tiles, and from the radio-control-car battery slot when you won't wait for me to fetch a screwdriver. I chip a nail every time I flip your ketchup lid. And your shampoo top. Even when I peel the backs off your stickers!
By the way, this "overparenting" malarkey is just another way Society persecutes good moms and why on earth it is a bad thing to help your child navigate life's challenges is beyond me. (Well, everything's beyond me now, since I'm dead. LOL!)
And, this may sound weird, but it's as if there isn't enough of me between the nail and the fingertip (a place apparently called the "hyponychium"), which means when digging into that clementine, the skin under my nail ripped. It split at the line where flesh and keratin meet. It hurt, and I could feel the pith pushing deeper and deeper into the crack but I had to keep scraping and scrape fast because it was nearly time to leave and because you needed that Fruit for balance and we both know you won't eat bananas or apples (and grapes are a choking hazard even when I slice them in half). By golly, you will go to school with unbalanced meals over my dead body. (LOL again!)
So I peeled the whole thing and it sure wasn't one of those nice, easy clementines—"Cuties," right?—engineered to simply shrug out of its own shell. No, this one was a bear to strip, bit by bit, and I didn't bleed, exactly, so don't worry that I got blood on your lunch, but my finger did sting like the dickens when I rinsed it at the sink later, after I'd driven you to school. And then it got infected and the antibiotic cream didn't work and the antibiotic pills didn't work, nor the shot, and then the third antibiotic gave me "pseudomembranous colitis with complications" and then I died.
I want you to know that even though you did not have time to eat that clementine, I'm glad it was there in case you had.
You will always be my Cutie.
P.S. I've seen the high school cafeteria. Next year, buy the damn fruit salad and pick out the bits you hate.
Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist in Nashville, where she writes the urban nature blog Look Around: Nearby Nature. Her essays have appeared in Hippocampus, The Hopper, storySouth, The Ilanot Review, Longleaf Review, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and The Fourth River.