Here, in Nigeria, we don’t really grow apples. We grow oranges. Sweet and supple, sometimes juicy; sometimes you hit on a whole kind that is fibers-only.
We have found many ways to enjoy them. To go round and round with the knife is the traditional way. A master at it can peel the rind a snaky long and continuous, and still have no tears in the eyes. But me, I’d always make the orange a sphere with holes, in the name of peeling it. And after I wipe the tears from my eyes, I’d cut it in two, the upper part like a leaking little hat, and eat it anyway.
The orange sellers have their style. As fast as their blades are sharp, they razor through the rind, running up and down the back with thin slices, as if making incisions. We like the ‘tangerine style’ best, my sister and I . We nick the orange open in the bottom, and drag the rind off in all directions. Done, hairy segments revealed, we relax with a careless fondness, and pluck them lazily into our mouths, one segment after the other.
If you have no time though, simply lift up the knife and cleave the thing into four parts. Then bring it to me and I’ll show you the rest with my teeth.
Oh! Oranges used to be sweet. They still are, if you find them that way. But don’t find the ‘fibers-only’- you’ll wish you hadn’t spent the money, or given energy to peel them. Or wish you had left them to turn yellow like oranges whose owner wants no one in his compound, plucking his fruits. Like the one I passed by today. And the ground beneath the tree was littered with them, and the air all around was fouled by them, and the light they reflected was the color of a rotting yellow. Yuck. Who knows how they’d taste.
But of course the ground knows… ah, that kind of ground, like a graveyard, swallowing qualities that were never enjoyed by those who needed them, until they became maggots, and then became soil. Soil and ammonia. Or were they produced to be just manure? Their owner knows, the man who didn’t let the world taste of his fruits until they turned a rotting yellow, and no one cares now that he ever had any fruit, because no one really wants to know the taste of a rotting yellow.
At least I don’t.