They're walking down the verge side, linking patches of deep tree shade. Walking home from school. Pristine in white blouse and plaid skirt; starched shirt and pressed chinos: eating mangoes. Instant irreparable stains, a glue juice that possesses its own gravitational field, one with an unerring attraction for the clean. How do they manage this feat?
Eating a mango is an art form. Whether to slice down either side of the stone, score into squares the inverted half moons. Gnaw on the cubes, then dribble down chin. Or to go for the beheading, off with the crown, just like an egg. Suck, then dribble down chin. You could always try being elegant and use a spoon. Beware, it will mark you as: 'not from here'. Scoop. With greater glissading assets than a wet bar of soap, it will now immediately scoot off said appliance, land in your lap, having dribbled down chin.
And yet this near-ubiquitous fruit is one of the standard offerings at the stances where buses stop for comfort breaks. Stacked on drum lids, piled high in buckets, glistening in the hot sun. Pock marked, but never mis-shaped, the rejects of the un-exportable grades, a brock of the sweetest fruit. Piled up beside all the other fare that will explode from your fingers into your lap and the hot sticky bus seat as it cants around yet another corner. Sugar washed, desiccated doughnuts, gravy-drooling empanadas, grease dripping deep-fried everythings. Hyper-refined white carbohydrates.
|A plate of tripe.|
Only we're not on that bus. We've dropped down through the contours and cycled into a hot, late, lazy Sunday afternoon, into a small town whose sole preoccupation is feeding people. A place that's well into its infinite bottle of beer. Dust, fumes and Mariachi are mixed in equal parts, to coat the alfresco diners at the plastic tables by the roadside. Every stance a clone of the previous, every menu a monotonous recurring echo. There's only one brand of beer; another universal lager. This time it's called 'Poker', so we must still be in Colombia.
We need to eat, only I can't face yet another plate of some mummified hen swamped by dry rice that's sat in a cauldron and a hot-box since mid morning. We walk the solitary street in two directions in the vain hope that something different will materialise, yet experience dictates that we won't. No fresh vegetables, no new bread, not even the local delicacy of 'Ternero' - cow foetus soup; only stacks of mangoes. Cooking mangoes. Warm sticky mangoes with an affinity for my chin and that gritty dust.
We perch on the edge of the bed, the only level surface in the room, trying not to shed crumbs, drip grease or explode those sugar coatings. Some days you're reduced to eating rubbish.
As for the mango, it's an uncontested fact: the only safe way to consume one is naked, in the shower.