The beautiful imperfect

close up photo of peeled orange
Photo by Robin Kumar Biswal on

Another one from Chicago. Circa 2009, I think. #ThrowbackThursday

The man comes into the co-op singing a song and talking to himself. He wears crisp orange pants and a fitted jacket that matches. There is a slice of lemon shirt peeking out between the folds of chest and stomach, and all he needs is a top hat to perform in a three-ring circus.  But he’s not a performer; he’s just part of the neighborhood.

As he saunters about the store, the man tells my co-workers that he’s a scientist, that he “deals in the rainbow,” and they laugh. The co-op is host to all sorts of zany life forms: pluots, seitan, people; and we too, deal in the rainbow, if you can look at fruits and vegetables and see the sun and the rain that such a spectrum needs.

This man makes me think of peaches, their strange, fuzzy warmness, or maybe nectarines, and the way sunlight is banded on their skin and glowing in their flesh.

He goes through the crate of apricots, and we could lose one to his sleeve — not because he’s that kind of shyster, but because the match of pigment is just too perfect to catch. He could hold the fruit up next to his body, and as if shrouded in a cloak of invisibility, it would be gone before we’d  ever see it leave.

But he doesn’t snag the apricots, small as silver dollars, and worth a little more, nor does he contemplate the midnight darkness of the bin blackened with ripe plums. These delicate, bruise-beautiful orbs held our attention all summer with their cleavage.  And why not? It the perfect hiding place for soft, green mold, for delicious juices to catch.

We have no air conditioning where I work, and when days and nights and then days again pass before these fruit are sold, we cup them gently in our hands, examine each unique crease for the liquid seepage that becomes home to spores. We do this with all the produce, hold its individuality in our hands, digest the difference in the colors from one delivery to another. This scrutiny is like getting to know someone intimately, seeing the wax-paper crinkles of passing seasons line a face you have come to love.

And then, before you know it, the moment is gone. The apricot is out the door with the orange sleeve; the summer sun is set and gone behind trees throwing flames of leaves. The passing of the days and the fruits and the seasons is so beautifully imperfect, and so fast we miss it if we’re not paying attention.

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