Friday, December 16, 2005


Friday L. arrived at work with this. It was for me.

It's a Pummelo, she explained. Like a grapefruit, except thicker skinned and sweeter.

I took the curious fruit from her and held it in both hands. It was enormous, yellow, heavy and cool, the size of a baby's head. My hands fit it exactly. I parked the thing on my desk and between patients I returned to it, hoisted it, tossed it hand to hand, even caressed it. It cried out to be touched; I lifted it to my nose, closed my eyes and breathed. A faint redolence of grapefruit raised a ghost of Proustian childhood breakfasts. I put it down and percussed it, as if it were a patient's chest: it was strangely resonant.

I was falling in love.

At day's end I slipped it into my backpack and brought it home.

What was so compelling, so attractive about the pummelo ? You would think it and I would be a bad match, nearly incompatible. I am a damp and darkling creature of the North, it a sunny denizen of the hot, dry southwest. Wouldn't some sour and gnarly apple be more my type, some creature of a long-abandoned orchard, clinging to its branch long into November ?

Noting my adoration of the pummelo, several people advised You should draw a face on it.

They didn't get it. The pummelo is far from faceless.

It has a dark side -- a side blotched with lime-green quasi-lunar shadows.

And, in addition to its green moon blotch, it's got a crater,

and, opposite, amidst a sea of pellucid snot-green speckles, an omphalos.

I was in its sway, and it knew it. So it took over the house.

It claimed the best radiator, and the best view.

It had a torrid fling with a ceramic pot, right beneath my eyes.

It developed literary pretensions: I am, it declaimed, a jar in Tennessee.

It affected a passion for tea,

pronounced our French doors "inauthentic"

and our kitchen penguin "tacky, and not in a good way."

It became a spy in the house of love,

and tried to outdo camerawoman

and bicycleman at their avocations.

Finally, when it grew sloppily lachrymose beside the dead pet's ashes, I'd had enough.

There would be breakfast and I held all the spoons.

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