The Peanut

The Peanut

My favourite part of the peanut is the red paper-like layer of skin that separates the shell from the kernel. There is a Chinese riddle whose answer is the peanut, whose question describes this layer as a wedding veil, a curtain over the naked curves of a luscious bride.

My aunt, when she was little, was introduced to the peanut by a neighbour and later excitedly told her mom that she had been given a wonderful kind of candy wrapped in wood.

In grade five sex ed. class we watched a video about sexual assault, which in its statutory form was completely foreign to me, though like everyone else I intuitively knew the perversities of human nature from the moment I was born; sex ed. was like that in general, learning the words to a song we already knew, a song we did not know was available to the rigid technicality of language. In the video a strange man flashes a child our age, who immediately reports the incident to an adult. My English-as-a-second-language ears hear this as: “He showed me his peanut!”

I chew this over carefully, watchful of the stifled giggles around me, sensing the uncomfortable silence of the teacher. It doesn’t take me very long to realize the absurdity, the utter impropriety, of what the man had done. Imagine: an adult who goes up to a kid he doesn’t know and, without a word of warning, holds out, yet does not offer, a peanut! Of all things! Thank goodness this kind of behaviour is against the law, thank goodness we are being educated about it.

My mom loves steamed peanuts. The shells become soft and wet, so that the red layer of skin becomes one with the nuts inside. You squeeze one end of the shell and two pink nuggets squish out from the other side, a bride eternally veiled but still luscious nonetheless. We eat them from a big bowl at the dinner table, the four of us hunched over like gamblers gloating over poker chips, old ladies shuffling mahjong tiles, scavengers rummaging for nuggets of oversight, accountants steadying the tilt of a balance sheet, bulimics unwrapping chocolate kisses.

My grandma told me that a handful of peanuts contain as many nutrients as an egg. In the summer that I lived with her, she would offer them to me sporadically in the same way she offered pieces of her past, glimpses into my grandmother as a mother, a daughter, a bride.

In college one night my friend and I wrung ourselves about the kitchen desperately wishing that we knew of a convenience store open at that hour, wanting to commit ourselves to junk food, write its initials beside ours, draw hearts around it all. Instead we dipped a spoon in peanut butter and jam, ‘making candy.’

Years later she blamed this act of depravity on me, laughing that it was my idea to make that awful, disgusting creation, joking that it should be against the law, warning me that it was to be our shameful secret, something to make us smile through the hard times, under the push of the weight of wedding veils, the gush and thrust of peanuts shown and offered but seldom given.

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