Wild Plums

In late summer, my hands are full of cherry plums pulled from a wild tree in the neighborhood. Last summer, we couldn’t find it and thought perhaps it had been cut down; this year, I find it because my son’s bus is running late so I’m instead walking in a loop around the townhouses, working out my frustration at the bus, now 40 minutes late, and at the man I haven’t seen in months, the one who could use his own legs to walk to me if he wished. Most of the plums are too high for me to reach, while still others, shaken from the tree at some point, are spoiled and rotting on the ground beneath the leaves; enough for some fruit flies to get drunk on, I imagine, spinning lazy, corkscrewing circles in the air.

I write a few lines about them but not the man in my notebook before my son eats all but one, write about their color, their misshapen-ness, how they are nothing at all like the fat, cultivated plums at the grocery store. He eats all but one not because he doesn’t believe in sharing but because I like the way he revels in them, the way he closes his eyes for that first bite, his small hands sticky with their juice, the way he eats them quickly. I take my time instead with my single plum, savor that wild accident.

There were only enough to fill the cup made from my two palms that day, and I had walked the sidewalks back to the house like that, my hands out before me as if for an offering, filled with red. I think, as I eat my single plum, that, along with the man, I have left that out of the notebook too when documenting it, the 4 years I had offered him.

When the fruits are gone a few weeks later I will not be able to distinguish their branches from those of the other trees they are woven among, a tangle of limbs that now look the same in autumn, something messy and let go, a torrent of fading color. The falling leaves are brittle beneath my shoes, more fragile than the round fruit that had fallen from a shaken branch straight into my waiting hands. I will not be able to place exactly where it occurs, neither the gift of the plum nor the recognition of the loss of the man, only that my mouth recalls the hint of both as if they were summer–something fleeting and least expected, held gently between my palms.

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