The whole world felt like a crisper drawer. It smelled like the heady soap rush of an open door at a laundromat, the first bloom of jasmine. Trees crowded with fragile plum blossoms, the pale pink of a pulled down lip. Night stopped collapsing like a wool blanket slipping off a couch and smothering us in heavy darkness. It grew silky at the edges, hung faint purple and darted with silver. Days stretched. We slipped off jackets, bared shoulders. Kumquats sat in the market and you could eat them in one bite, like a giant with a fistful of oranges.
In April I ate a lot of cookie dough without eggs and kiwis with skins. I defrosted ham and cheese croissants, and when it was rainy, we ate them scorching hot with half-naked green salads in front of the fire and listened to the drops hit the tinny side of our apartment. I ate rugelach in the rain with big hunks of dried cherries that hung out of my mouth as I slurped each bite. People stared, and I answered questions with my mouth full and crumbs on my coat collar.
Away for a weekend with friends, we ate at long tables, we ate in the grass. We ate elbow to elbow, with bags set on chairs and bodies stretched wide. We ate ham and porchetta and lasagna plump with pesto. We ate toffee with coconut and cheese with truffles and sausage with hot sauce. The sky was absurd. The sunset was a joke. People ran outside to take pictures of their grins against the backdrop of a nearly ended day. The moon was a triumph we tried to deserve.
We danced to songs with no words. We told jokes with no punchlines and drank coffee with no cream. Even absence was satisfying. Even leaving felt good because we were going somewhere else, another kind place in a string of kind places. A hot tub bobbing under a nearly full moon. And what would we eat when we got there? I wondered.
The hot tub was so full it sloshed. Ziploc bags of fruit appeared, passed from wet hand to wet hand. It was heavy with the sag of collapsing fruit, raspberries that were hours away from casting off their ephemeral bodies and relaxing into seedy goo. Pineapple reminded us it could be sour, a wink in your mouth, the crunch of unripened flesh.
In the hot tub someone said, “It’s like the first time you try a new fruit, you always remember those days.” Standing in the kitchen that day, I watched Nicole pop a kumquat in her mouth and I followed suit, my first successful kumquat. My eyes closed, my mouth puckered. My teeth broke skin. What if fear was as thin skinned as a kumquat and you could eat its whole body, seeds and pith and rind? What if you could strip it off with your teeth and chew it just to see what happens next?
Sometimes twenty minutes shine electric. They are so alive that they melt adjectives when you try to name them. Sometimes for twenty minutes, you’re a hot tub full of chatter cracking a quiet night. Sometimes the moon is as big as an iridescent smudge left by some far off giant, here to remind us that there’s magic just outside of our peripheral vision.
That night I tasted chlorine and fingertip ridges and wet moonlight, soaking bathing suits and fruit that was too ripe or not nearly ripe enough. Everyone was beautiful because they were alive and underwater and happy to be there. There was always more beer in the fridge and tomorrow there would be enough coffee and aspirin for anyone who tested that theory. There was always more fruit in the Ziploc and no more fear.