What I share won't come from after dark but rather the quiet before the light, warm morning kisses, and the cold grip of the day.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Melon Folly

As a young man, I suffered when my inner life was in variance with my surface existence.  In point of fact, from when I was young until I was not so young.  About 18 years.  When not tormented (it cycled in and out) with this shit, I was having a pretty good time.  I fell in love with a beautiful actress named Erika in the latter half of the 70’s, and to all appearances we were very compatible, created a stimulating environment, and lived with élan.  On free days we’d often strike out on simple adventures of window shopping, museums and concerts, restaurants, cook in our door-manned apartment, drive in the country, or explore New York City.  We’d dress-up and go into fancy places, like Harry Winston’s to browse, test drive a Mercedes (which she purchased and used on those country drives), or make an appointment to see a penthouse apartment advertised for sale we had no intention of buying.  After one such day of make believe, we sat down at the counter of Rumplemeyer’s, a café in the St. Moritz Hotel on Central Park South, which served delicious confections.  Looking over the menu of Viennese delights I noticed a man one stool down to the left of me enjoying a large, gleaming, succulent slice honey dew melon.  He was one the handsomest men I had ever seen.  In his early thirties, dark and Mediterranean, solid stature, he was absorbed in easy conversation with a woman at his side and offered genuine warmth as he listened and commented and, gracefully as a surgeon, filleted the melon away from its rind.  It wasn’t envy I felt as I observed him, so much as inspiration: could such peace and unselfconsciousness in a human being be possible, manifest in the eating of fruit?  I wanted to forgo my inner-conflicts and be able to enjoy melon and Erika’s company.  I put down the menu, forgot about chocolate, the famous Napoleons, their ice creams and éclairs, and ordered the honeydew.  Life was altered by my witness.

While I waited for my honeydew, I surreptitiously observed how my neighbor ate his melon.  Not with a spoon as I had always eaten them before, but with a knife and fork.  First, he removed the fruit whole from the rind in one long, under cut.  Next, he made an incision, lengthwise all along the middle, then bisected the two narrow halves into smaller, bite-sized sections.  It waited in place upon the rind looking untouched, just as the butcher’s at William’s Poultry on Broadway at 86th pre-sliced their roasted turkey’s, reassembling them to look whole.  I wanted my life to feel whole, from all its separate little pieces.  My melon arrived on its pristine white plate.  I picked up my silvery knife and fork and addressed it with enthusiastic dash.  The last thing I wanted was to appear unsure.  I began by cutting.

I put down my utensils and sat back with folded arms to admire my first maneuver.  The newly freed wedge began to move, so imperceptibly I thought it was an illusion.  I had sliced it at such an angle that gravity, aided by the natural lubrication from its juice, sent it on a determined slide from its rind.  I was hypnotized.  Even if I could have reacted in time and lanced it with my fork or made any attempt to arrest its progress, there would be a catastrophe.  The plate would rear up and clatter back on the marble surface, perhaps breaking, the melon would fly off and slap onto the polished floor, or worse, crash amid the stacks of crystal glassware behind the counter.  In the agonizing slow motion in which our minds see such moments, my fruit-boat launched off the plate and accelerated on a voyage across the counter top, lagged like a curling stone, and kissed the gentleman’s elbow.

I retrieved my melon with fork and bare hand, apologizing for the damp spot on the sleeve of his crisp, French blue shirt.  Awkwardly, I put it back on the plate, as if landing a fish, careful to avoid the rind, lest the wedge take flight again.  This was a challenge.  There was little room left on the plate, and I had to keep it pinned while I used the knife to render it into lifeless, mangled pieces.  Erika and I were unable to restrain our hysterics.  The gentleman and his friend paid and left.  We finished quickly and did the same.

Anon, James

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