Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Eat the Dragon Fruit from the Top Down Baby

It lay on the cutting board like a fat, pink pine cone –it was scruffy like it would prick you, but soft and fleshy to the touch. Honestly, it creeped me out a little bit, the feel of it more than the look. We were at the market before suppertime, picking up and poking at the fruits, when I announced, over the pile of “Pink Lady Apples $1.49 a Pound,”

“We should get special fruit today, none of these regular fruits will do!” I swept my hand across the fruit display in a Vanna White-way. Nick had this way of looking at me that communicated amusement, annoyance, and a soft endearing all at the same time, and likewise, it made me simultaneously angry, annoyed, and feel loved. He looked at me over the apples that way, his hand reaching up to brush back his hair, messy from the misty day we had spent at the Imperial Beach Pier, then, without breaking eye contact with me, reached down and lifted up this fruit, the fat, pink and scruffy pine cone on the cutting board in front of us now.

“Now what?” I asked him. We were standing side by side in his kitchen, murdering a village of fruit to satisfy our hunger. (That was his description of our decision to cut up an early supper of fruit to eat lying on his bed, watching, but not watching the 1995 version of “A Little Princess,” my pick after the night before spent eating massive slices of pepperoni pizza and mandarin oranges, and binge-watching Family Guy, which I had never seen, and which I also found hilarious, but not for two of our seven, short nights together before I had to fly back home to Washington.)

“You should stop poking at it with the knife, for sure.” He said, placing his hand over mine, gently drawing my hand, and the knife, away from the fleshy monstrosity. “Let’s slice off the ends, then tourne it like a melon.” While he spoke, his hands moved over mine, arms around me, and we both held and sliced the ends off the fruit. It seemed like it should have been more romantic, it was in theory, but in his tiny kitchen, and duo-wielding a butcher knife, felt awkward and dangerous, so we both started laughing (making it more dangerous) so he moved his body next to mine again and talked me through the rest of the task.

“Turn it on the end now and go with the curve; let gravity do the work.” He repeated the instruction as I sliced the pink, prickly skin away from the white flesh. The words became mantra and I was completely connected to the knife, the flesh of the fruit, the black seeds tinging against the blade of the knife, barely causing disruption in the downward motion of the knife. Lift. Pressure. Curve. Lift. And with each slice of the skin, all the way around the fruit, he repeated: “Go with the curve; let gravity do the work.”

Left with a small, football-shaped fruit, texture like a kiwi, but bright white, tiny black seeds evenly-spaced throughout the flesh, I was set to slice the fruit for the bowls, already filled with sliced pineapple, mango, and grapes (which he had argued qualified as “regular” fruit, but I won with my argument that they were “special” because they were purple grapes, and I believe it to be the most neglected of grapes) but he again put his hand on mine, just stopping the knife from making the first slice. “This one,” he said, picking up the fruit, a rivulet of juice running down the side of his hand, where pink-meets-tan, and over his wrist bone, and all the way down his forearm to his elbow, “this one is just for eating.” He finished, and in punctuation, he took a big, juicy bite of one end of the pear-sized football of spotted flesh, more juice running the same track down his arm, and now another down the center of his chin.

“Nick!” I laughed and made a grab at his hand, and he mock-raised raised his arm up before bringing the fruit to my lips. We ate the whole dragon fruit in turns. It was refreshing, but I was disappointed with the lack of flavor; how can something with such a vibrant shade of pink on the outside, taste like so much nothing on the inside? The very center was sweeter than the outside, sweeter, however, like the melon that is closest to the rind, just the essence of the melon is left.

“Maybe we should save the last two bites of the center for last.” I said around a juicy mouthful.

“I disagree.” He said, taking another bite, smaller bites now, like the discussion was bound to end when the fruit was gone, and we had more to say.

“Why?” I asked, not sure if he was being disagreeable to tease me, or if he meant it.

“Life is not about saving the best bites for the end,” he said, wiping his chin on the back of his hand, then his fingers on his shorts, and then took my chin in the crook of his finger, his thumb cool on my warm cheek. “What if you don’t know when the end is coming, and you never got to eat the best bite –the flavor is for now.” He kissed me then, juice mingling between us. He pulled away, taking my face in his hand, nudging my nose with his, looking me in the eye. “Eat the dragon fruit from the top down, baby.”

Rebecca Reece - 4.9.2019