My father has a fruit guy he’s been going to for years. As a child I’d wander after my father, through the piles of longan and lychee, Thai mangoes and starfruit, and the fruit guy would say “Girl, you try this one”. My father calls him “Tiger Brother” in a dialect, I don’t know which. On Hari Raya, my father orders baskets of fruit from him, and loads up the car with durian, guava, oranges, mangoes, to be cut and served to my very big extended family after hours of visiting.
When I lived in Egypt, I had my own fruit man for the first time. He was a little, dark old man in a fruit store on the corner. He always seemed very amused at having three foreign girls with broken Arabic come to his shop. He had a kid helping him, sometimes, maybe a nephew, or a grandson. The fruits in Egypt are delicious. He’d let us munch on a banana each for free, and sell us whatever was in season. Gorgeous, perfect persimmons that he assured us weren’t from Occupied Palestine, figs that looked like hearts when you cut them in half that were so sweet they tasted like they’d been sugared, watermelons that hopefully hadn’t been grown in Nile water. He’d teach us the names of the fruits in Arabic, and test us on them the next time we came by. I’d recognised the name for figs from the Quran, and he approved. The entire area of Mohandiseen was apparently wrecked by the first revolution. He was an old man, and the wheels of revolution are still turning. I pray that he is safe.
Now, my fruit man is a fruit family. Thursdays they are at the market near the Prefectural Offices. The father smokes and naps at the side of the stall after all the office workers have gone back into their offices after lunch. He gives me free tomatoes sometimes. The son never gives me a discount, but he tells me what’s good today. The mother never comes on Thursdays. She comes on Sundays at the Sunday market near Kochi castle, and talks to me. One week I came with a friend, the next week she asked me what happened to my friend. I generally come alone, I think she pities me for that. She checks to see if I know how to eat the fruit. Loquat – no, yamamomo – not really, peaches – yes. I think she calculates the prices wrongly, sometimes, but I have to translate the prices to do it, so I don’t really bother to check. It’s worth it, really. Now cherries have started to come into season, and the peaches are turning perfectly red at their tips, the last of the loquats and yamamomos are at the corner of the stall, and we are in summer.