Mangoes and Kiwi
When I was growing up, my mother worked for Metro and met a lot of people from around the world. We were a working poor family and there were times that we actually went hungry. However, at other times, my mother would take the little bit of money and information she gleaned from her co-workers and introduce us to new foods. I remember one day she came home with a mango and a kiwi. She divided them up so that my three siblings and I could all have a taste of something different. This was her way of letting us know that there was a better life and things outside of the poverty in which we were ensconced.
Then I grew up and became privileged for a moment and my son never knew a life without various fruits and vegetables. He loved star fruit and mangoes. I remember when he was just five or six months old and his father called me from the kitchen and said, “Your son just swallowed half a kiwi whole.” The father had sliced half the kiwi in quarters and left the other half waiting as he doled them out to the baby. Then the father dropped something on the floor (he was a real anal type) and bent down to get it. When he looked up the half of kiwi was gone. The father spent a minute looking under the high chair, picking the baby up and out of the high chair and then he called me in to investigate the situation. The baby had indeed swallowed a half of a very chunky kiwi without chewing it. Evidently, the chunky love baby was irritated with the father for doling this yummy fruit out to him in pieces.
Mangoes are my favorite fruit. I love them sliced, cubed or straight off the skin (that is me just sinking my teeth into one)! I used to be into kiwi, but when you see the seeds in baby poop…well you kind of lose your appetite for the fruit. I love avocados too, but even though they are a fruit, I think of them as a vegetable and eat them as such.
Today I got home after a very odd sort of day. There was an eviction notice in my mailbox this morning (that wasn’t there last night and the mail carrier had not come at 8:00 a.m.) for a, “John Doe or Jane Doe.” I just made the necessary calls to the people who can help and said a few jackasses under my breath as I rode the bus to my psychiatric appointment. Then I had a tantrum in the Starfucks—oops I mean Starbucks—because it was 9:18 a.m. and I had to be across the street at the place for people like me to see the psyche doctor at 9:20 a.m.
I only had enough money and time for a small dark roast coffee. But the little boy behind the counter insisted I tell him if it was a tall and the girl who has seen my shit shows turn into shit storms pushed him (I kid you not) out of the way and told him to just make it a tall and leave room for cream (she had learned the hard way about my short very dry extra hot whole milk cappuccinos). Then I said loud enough for all the people in the line to hear, “I refuse. I refuse to say it. Just give me a small coffee.” I know, really who is the asshole here right?
Anyway I arrived home and was able to get into the building without any trouble. When I walked in my apartment I smelled the mangoes. They were ripe and ready to be sliced opened. As I sat on my couch gorging on a mango I had a memory about prison. I finished my mango and it was good, but it filled my belly with sadness.
When I was at Alderson Federal Prison Camp (Alderson FPC for those of us in the know), they gave us good fruit. There were times that we had fresh pineapple and peaches. We were given grapes and honeydew and cantaloupe when in season. I mean mostly we got oranges, bananas, apples and pears here and there, but there were enough times to appreciate and expect good fruit.
One night I dreamt of kiwi. My entire dream involved me eating touch and smelling kiwifruit. I woke up and told my bunky—she was this Armenian woman who is old enough to be my mother and I love her and miss her so much—I dreamt of kiwi. Bunky laughed, “Oh now I don’t think we will be getting any of those now will we?” Then we walked outside and she picked some dandelion greens and started eating them. (Did I mention Bunky was a nutter and grazed off the grounds often?)
The next day at lunch guess what we had? You got it kiwi. I mean for three days they gave us kiwi. And I loved them. I snuck them out of the dining hall and took them back to my cube and prayed over them and thanked God and the Universe for remembering me. Then I said to my bunky, “I want mangoes.” And she said, “Well who knows. I never thought we would get kiwi.” I started meditating on mangoes. Morning noon and night I thought on mangoes.
Then someone did something bad to me at Alderson FPC and I was not worthy enough to be believed or protected or both and so I did something bad to myself and then I got sent away to a real prison. Hazelton Secure Female Facility (or Hazelton SFF for those of us sadly in the know). There I stopped dreaming and thinking on mangoes. They only gave us apples and once in a while bananas. I stopped surviving on food and lived off of air and fear. I forgot that I had ever been free and was convinced I would never be free. My dreams turned to black and were filled with hollow screams.
When I shop I try to buy things that make me happy…things that I will actually eat and take pleasure in tasting. My dream and desire for kiwi in prison was my longing for my son. My craving for mangoes was memories of acts kindness from my mother (and there are so few). I have one mango left, but tomorrow I will buy two more. I cannot have mother. I am waiting for “Birdy”, my son, and so the kiwis will have to stay put until then. “There will be time….”