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i peel an avocado seed,

stripping the mossy skin

to reveal a wrinkling beige.

i punch it angrily 

with three toothpicks

and suspend it in a glass of water

for eight long weeks,

before i dump it in the soil.

‘i don’t think it’s working’,

they say.

‘is that witchcraft?’

‘five to thirteen years! -

who can wait that long?’

‘plant an onion instead

or try a different seed?’

pamphlets slipped under the door,

advice on the telephone -

the words, all a cocktail,

of chemicals

on fertile hope.

the neighbours peep over the wall

enquiring eagerly,

‘anything yet?’

others steal a glance 

and whisper to each other 

as they hurry away. 

those with trees in their own garden

build higher walls, lest I reach for their fruit

or my bitterness dry theirs up from the root.

i sit in my bathtub

half in and half out

and run my fingers over my belly, 

tracing a map along the lines of what could have been. 

the skin sags unpleasantly, as if it could peel off like 

the skin of the avocado seed.

i reach for a lonely ripened mango

and puncture its yellowed skin. 

its sweetness explodes dramatically, 

the sticky mustard pulp running down my arms and tendril fingers

into the murky water, 

like it is weeping with relief.

one day, maybe i will have the avocado. 

for now, this will do.

Pritika Rao was born in the small south Indian town of Vellore on 21 October 1988. She is an economist and freelance writer who lives in Bangalore, India. Her work has appeared in The Times of India, Deccan Herald, The Alipore Post, Soup Magazine, The Swaddle and Bebadass.in. In 2018, she won second prize in the Sunday Herald short story competition. Her short fiction has been featured in the HBB Micro Fiction Anthology: Selected Top Entries and in Beetle Magazine. She has also self-published a book of poetry titled Eclipse on Joypiter (2015) and a short novel titled Message Received (2018) [both available for sale on Amazon]. She publishes poetry on Instagram @pritikasuzanne. She has also published literature in the field of economics, on behavioural psychology in the time of COVID-19, as well as more technical papers and commentaries.

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