Pick Your Own

by | Apr 21, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

two bowls piled high with gleaming orange-red chunks of the fruit dotted with black seeds.

The mid-day sun was already relentless, drying up any morning moisture in the previously arid city. The Englishman and his young companion sat outside the café, grateful for the inadequate shelter the parasol gave them, waiting for their order. Presently, the young waiter arrived with two bowls piled high with gleaming orange-red chunks of the fruit dotted with black seeds. The man’s mouth began to water at the site of the flesh of the watermelon and its unique fruity aroma.

I hope you like it,” She began, picking up a cube of the luscious fruit with her thumb and forefinger of her left hand. The faded henna was still evident on her fingers and the gold band reflecting the sunlight making him shiver. “It’s not, erm, how do you say… time.”

“Season, you mean,” he reassured her, watching her pop the chunk between her plump pink lips reducing it to pulp in seconds with those perfect white teeth. She ate with her mouth slightly open, something he’d seen a lot of since arriving in the country. However, with his beautiful companion, it was far from being off-putting. There was something strangely sensual about her mastication that made him forget his train of thought.She brought him back with another innocent question.

“What do you call it, the process that makes it tasty?”

“Oh, ripen?” he replied, jolted back to the present by her perfect intonation. He placed a piece of the cold sticky fruit into his mouth as she squealed with delight.

“Yes, yes! That’s it, ripen!” His eyes watered at the slight bitterness of the under-ripe melon and he drew in his cheeks.” Oh you don’t like it do you,” she uttered, a look of devastation flashing across her stunning features.

“No, no it’s gorgeous, I promise!”  He responded panicking at her transformation. She was a creature of extremes, he’d discovered since meeting her a year previously. Changing the subject quickly he posed a question of his own. “So, do these grow here?” He enquired, nodding to the bulging bowls of fruit. Droplets of condensation began to appear on the surface of the melon giving it a jewelled effect. 

“Yes we have many farms out in the Jordan Valley where irrigation is possible and the soil is good.” Her face had returned to its serene form as she devoured another piece of melon. 

“Can you go and pick them?” He carried on, a thought entering his head. 

“Pardon? Pick them? Why?” An exquisite expression, that of sheer puzzlement formed before his eyes. This was a visual feast, he thought, continuing his line of questioning. “Can you go out and pick your own watermelon?” 

“Why on earth would anyone want to do that?” 

“Sorry I was just asking. We have places like that in the UK, where you can pick your own fruit”, he was struggling now as her expression changed yet again, to something resembling suspicion. Her jet black eyebrows pointed in towards the bridge of her nose and her huge brown eyes narrowed with cynicism. He noticed how one eyebrow was a perfect arc, the tiny black hairs arranged side by side in unison. While on the end of the other, they opened up like an errant caterpillar. It was these kinds of imperfections like the tiny mole below her left eye, which differentiated her from that of an immaculately crafted doll. 

“Really?” She sounded unconvinced but he noticed that cynicism, he’d seen it before. She hung on his every word, something he wasn’t used to, but then sometimes she’d give the game away and her ignorance wasn’t as it seemed… Was this the case now? He contemplated. Nevertheless, he carried on and prompted the strangest conversation ever, which had the whole establishment staring in bewilderment at the Englishman and his young Arab wife. 

“Yes, some years ago a bright spark farmer decided to open his field to Joe Public and let him pick fruit for his own consumption.” 

“Bright spark? Who is Joe Public?” 

“Oh, I mean a clever person with a bright idea. Joe Public is an expression for people, folks you know?” 

“Oh I see” 

“Anyway, the principle was you come in and pick a load of strawberries or raspberries or any other soft fruit you can imagine.” 

“Right.” 

“Yes it’s a win-win situation, you don’t have to pay pickers or packers, the public do it for you and pay you for the privilege.” 

“Yes I suppose so” 

 “Hang on a minute, what’s up? I know that look.” 

“What? I don’t know what you mean.” 

“Oh yes you do. Is it about watermelons?” 

At that point she began to smile broadly which before long turned into uncontrollable laughter. “So you think that Jordanian families should pile into their cars, drive out into the Jordan Valley, walk into a field, pick up a watermelon and drive away?” The statement was punctuated with laughter which attracted the attention of the first bystanders. 

“Oh yes, I see what you mean it’s not quite the same.” He conceded, getting her point. 

“Don’t worry Habibti, we won’t tell anyone,” she continued, still chuckling under her breath.

He recovered and went on the offensive, his own face cracking with humour. “Anyway, if everyone was like you, they’d be bankrupt in a month! I’ve seen your appetite, it would be one in the box and two for you,” She took on an expression of mock offence and countered with the killer blow. 

“Actually, I have done it before, in China.” His laughter was curtailed in an instant as he prepared for a story from the dark ages, the time before they met and she was with her ex. 

“Of course you have! I forgot they invented Pick Your Own, just like tea and silk”, he replied with just a bit too much sarcasm in his voice. Realising his error, he continued. “What did you pick, by the way?” anticipating another encounter with the one whom she called the tosspot

“We picked cherry tomatoes and those long green things, khiar,” saying the name in Arabic. Recognising the word, his face erupted into his own uncontrollable mirth as what she’d said sank in.

“Cucumber! Hahaha!”

” What? What?”

” Wait a minute, you’re telling me that the Chinese have farms where you pick your own salad ingredients?” 

“Yes you could say that. what’s wrong?” she had a look of sheer indignation, another heart-stopping expression. 

“OK” he stuttered, trying to contain his mirth.  “You’ve enjoyed picking salad ingredients in China and I suggested picking your own watermelon in Jordan. Can we call that a draw?” The indignant expression softened as she realised what had just happened. The most radiant smile appeared on her face, number six and by far the most beautiful of her morning expressions.

To the bewilderment of the surrounding diners, the couple returned from their own world and continued, in the mid morning sun, to enjoy their watermelon. 

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