on apricots & other fruit: for RW

I’m eating an apricot, actually two apricots from the basket I bought, and remembering that July after Ali’s wedding when we were having breakfast at the hotel and you loaded up on apricots because they were so juicy, saying, these Turkish apricots are wonderful. I never tasted apricots this sweet.

It was one of those moments that replays itself in my head every time I eat an apricot even though my first memories of apricots are of my mother who loved that particular fruit and said something similar whenever she was biting into one, though without the reference to Turkey because she had never gone there, or here, actually, since it is where I live now.

Fruit. I think of you a lot when I eat fruit. There were always different types of fruit on your kitchen table that you were slicing for me to eat. Watermelon, for instance, is something I can’t eat without remembering it was one of your favorites. You’d drink the juice from watermelons after eating a whole bowlful. I’d be picking the seeds out with my knife while you were digging in with abandon, savoring the smell of freshly cut watermelon.

There are certain types of fruit that I associate with people: green apples for one, bananas for another, cherries for my grandfather, grapefruit and prunes for my mother, and apricots, watermelon, Chinese pears, pomegranates, star fruit, dates for you. I imagine sitting in the breakfast nook of your kitchen in Bayside at around one in the am while you slice up fruit for me to eat with the tea and wine you have poured into our cups/glasses as we sit and talk after returning from the last show of a movie we saw in Manhattan. It seems you were always slicing fruit for me to eat with those beverages of choice in your kitchen. Maybe you were trying to counteract the wine, stuffing vitamins down my throat in an attempt to prolong my health, which, thankfully, has been the best of all my friends, as you’d like to point out, and possibly you thought you deserved some of the credit for that because of all that fruit, and vegetables, but that’s another story, you made sure I ate.

Love comes in many forms and feeding someone, slipping food onto their plate during meals, cooking favorite dishes, putting those lichee nuts or rapeseed into the grocery cart because you know they love them, well that’s a kind of love that goes beyond self into that sphere of concern for the well being of someone you wish will live a thousand years. It’s something mothers do, and wives and husbands, or at least the kind you want to marry because you know they treat food as if it were some sacred object, a special, holy gift that they are bestowing on you. And it is, since food is life, and as they pass that bowl of rice, that plate of tomatoes sprinkled with olive oil and basil, that bowl of cherries, that sliced apple and walnuts, that apricot, they are giving you hope for the future, a wish of long life, a dream of tomorrow.

And I think of you, my dear friend, as I eat my apricot and though we are thousands of miles apart and will, in all probability, never live in the same city again, I will not forget your acts of kindness, just as you seem never to forget mine, and the love we shared passes continually between us, from one apricot to the next, from my mouth, my heart, to yours.

The Waters of Lung-t’ou by Hsü Ling

The road that I came by mounts eight thousand feet;
The river that I crossed hangs a hundred fathoms.
The brambles so thick that in summer one cannot pass!
The snow so high that in winter one cannot climb!
With branches that interlace Lung Valley is dark:
Against cliffs that tower one’s voice beats and echoes.
I turn my head, and it seems only a dream
That I ever lived in the streets of Hsien-yang.

translated by Arthur Waley