Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I stood watching intently, and amused, as she attempted to peel the ripe Sabbar. The juices ran down her fingers to her delicate wrists and bits of the peel covered the place at the table where she stood. She was determined to do it herself. That was part of what I loved about her, her determination, which, at times, bordered on a hard-headed stubbornness. Although she had seen it in the streets of Damascus, she had never eaten the sweet fruit in her life. Here, it was everywhere, a delicacy we took for granted. However, as soon as her lovely hands held one for the first time, I saw the pear in an entirely new light.
We had been out walking. I was showing her the area around where I grew up. She marveled at the number of cacti, Sabbara trees, as she called them, that were along the road. They were handsomely laden with their brilliant red or yellow pears. When I told her they were edible, the Saber, as we call them here, she insisted that we pick some and I, enthusiastic to share everything with her, carefully pulled them from their prickly nests. I took off my shirt and created a sac of sorts in which to carry them home. She giggled nervously after I cursed several times from receiving a poke or two, but she continued to cheer me on as if I were navigating an obstacle course. My pride would never allow me to pick less than ten and, after I caught her admiring my bare torso with a mischievous little grin, I continued on as long as I could.
I rolled the fruits from my shirt onto the kitchen table. There were at least twenty. I stood for a moment and admired my harvest until I caught sight of her hand moving in to fetch one. "No, habibti!" She pulled her hand back in alarm. I immediately put my arm around her slender shoulders and warned her about the nasty thorns. They were small but insidious, and caused great discomfort if they got under the skin. Naturally I knew this from years of experience, from having them embedded in my hands and arms. But I couldn't knowingly expose her to anything unpleasant. The only thing I wanted her to remember about Sabbar was the luscious taste...and me picking them without my shirt. So I washed each of them and removed as many of the thorns as I could without actually peeling them.
She insisted on using a potato peeler and somehow I couldn't bring myself to stop her. "I don't want to cut out too much of the good fruit. I tend to gouge things with knives." She told me confidently and with a look in her eyes that suggested I'd better not try to stop her. She tentatively peeled away the outer skin and then used a knife to chop off each end of the fruit. It took everything in me not to chuckle or to move in to show her the proper way. She was adorable in her awkwardness, so I bit my tongue.
When she cut off the ends she discovered the spines. At first she wasn't sure what to make of them. She muttered to herself as she inspected it by removing one of them. As she did, the rest of the outer skin pulled away revealing the edible fruit. I saw the light go on; her beautiful eyes sparkled with delight. "Ah ha!" Then the scolding. "Why didn't you tell me?!" Instead of answering I gently removed the well peeled pear from her hand and took a bite. Her eyes turned stormy as she watched my mouth envelop almost half of it but before she could reprimand me I put the rest of it to her lips. She took a small bite and let the juices and pulp roll around in her mouth. Her eyes immediately quieted as the pleasure of the taste registered on her tongue. "Sahha."
I sat down and quickly peeled more of them. I selfishly needed her to eat at least one more. I cut the fruit into small pieces and asked her to sit by me. With my fingers I placed each piece on her tongue after she had chewed and swallowed the one before. I watched her enjoying the sweetness, her lips moving sensually as she chewed. I gazed longingly as she swallowed, following each lump as it moved through her throat and down her long, graceful neck. After she finished the last bite, I kissed her and savoured the sweetness of her mixed with the nectar of the Sabbar. It was the most heavenly combination. Suddenly I had the urge to harvest every tree in existence just so I could feed her one every day for the rest of our lives. But we had enough to last us a few days, and other, more burning, urges overtook us anyway...
I had wanted to show her everything about my life here. However, I quickly discovered that, in fact, through her, my life was reflected back to me in a refreshing new way. Just by being here, by being curious, by being her, she transformed the simple Sabbar into a delicious memory of that day, of her. I would never ever look at it or taste it in the same way again.