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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Onion Heart

Story by Rupert Dastur (Read author interview) April 26, 2021

Photograph by Ylanite Koppens

Brian hates the smell of onions. I imagine eating the entire raw bulb to light his fuse – just enough for next door to hear.

Did you know that every layer of skin is replaced within seven years? Dead dermis in the bath, in bed, in your tea.

It’s an organ. Like the heart.

“Does an onion have a heart?” I ask Brian, who’s watching TV.

I’d like to know if plants feel things. It was only a few years ago that scientists discovered fish experience pain. They applied rods to the silver scales and zapped them.

Imagine zapping a living creature, just to see it scream.

In the 70s, men with hairy chests were sexy. Now models look like they’ve been dipped in Veet. We like to think we’ve tamed the beast.

“What the fuck?” says Brian. He lost his job and his sense of humour at the same time.

If you put a teaspoon in your mouth while chopping onions, you won’t cry.

A long time ago, I was given a wooden spoon by a man called Rhys. It was decorated with Celtic knotwork. He was sad when I put it in the dishwasher. He called me uneducated and dumped me three days after Valentine’s Day.

The first commercial lipstick was invented in 1884.

The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is the moment you decide to leave.

Concealer arrived on the scene fifty years later. But who needs it these days, locked down, locked in?

My uncle, Simon, is gay. In the 70s, they attached electrodes to his temples and showed him pictures of men in love. Zap. Zap.

There are things you can hide, things you can’t.

You can stand in the aisle of a supermarket and have a meaningful conversation about onions with someone but have no idea of what goes on inside their head. Or their home.

It’s a Welsh Love Spoon. Sometimes, when I’m alone, I take it out from the shoebox at the bottom of the wardrobe. Rhys is married now. With three children.

Uncle Simon was married in the spring of 2016 and that gives me hope; he understands what it’s like to live underwater. He gave me a key. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, he promised.

If Rhys met me again, he’d say I’ve changed. I know things now. I could teach his children about adjectives, comparatives and superlatives: bad, worse, worst.

My skin knows things too.

“A heart?” says Brian. “Don’t be stupid.”  His heavy, hairy hand rests on his knee.

I make bubble sounds, watch pockets of air float above my head.

I hold the onion in my palm, try to feel its pulse.

About the Author

Rupert Dastur is a tutor and founding editor of TSS Publishing. His own work has been published in a range of places online and in print.

About the Artist

Ylanite Koppens is a photographer from The Netherlands.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-One
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