*Written on January 6th, 2012 in Charlotteville, Tobago*
These four old Americans have been discussing grapefruit for thirty straight minutes – I shit you not. Every time I think they’ve exhausted the subject, someone pipes up with a tidbit about citrus more disinteresting than the last: “At our local grocery you can get five ripe beauties for two dollars!”, the others become wide-eyed in disbelief. One bitter old man adds in the most matter-of-fact way I’ve ever heard someone discuss fruit: “Now, listen here, I used to have such a hankering for grapefruit, but the quality just isn’t the same anymore. It just isn’t the same”, as his wife and friends solemnly nod in agreement. When they finally move on from grapefruit, they turn to the next most dull topic imaginable: the mechanism in your refrigerator that turns off the indoor lights when the door is closed. Don’t ask about the segue; for all I know, they’ve had a ‘hankering’ to discuss this for quite a while.
I bring this up because the world is a strange place, but your small world, your own world is even stranger. As I’m sitting there in this fenced-in local restaurant, amusement quickly turning into boredom and disdain for these people who have nothing else to talk about except grapefruit, a tiny little girl runs along the street outside, trips on a crack in the weather-beaten tarmac, and falls on her frail body. She begins to wail fiercely, the kind of unsettling cry of a small child who is in incredible pain and there is nothing an outside party can do about it. I run out to see if she’s okay. Her legs are cut up and bleeding lightly, her palms have large abrasions on them and her delicate chin is cut up as well. Her big watering eyes look up at me in between cries that shake her whole body. I kneel down and ask her where she lives. Lips quivering and wiping her runny nose with her forearm, she feebly points up the hill. I pick her up and run up the hill giving her a bouncy piggy back ride, carefully trying to avoid aggravating her wounds. She stops crying and I think I hear a small laugh in there. Children are resilient like that. Either that, or people just hear what they want to hear.
So I drop her off at her grandmother’s house and quickly inform her what happened. Her grandma affectionately scolds her for being so clumsy. I think about how clumsiness – and awkwardness, its social counterpart – isn’t something you necessarily grow out of – I’m living proof of this. Before I go, her grandmother thanks me and hands me three ripe grapefruits.
I know when I’m being mocked.