Great Expectations

December 17, 2009
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It’s lunch time again. I load my tray: side, entrée, side. It’s just another meal, just another day. I eat an apple every day. With silver tongs, I root through the fruit for an apple.

The bin has pears and oranges and bananas and apples. The apples are red and green and red-yellow. The most recently washed apples taste the best, sitting, hiding, at the back end of the bin—where you have to reach awkwardly for the almost-out-of-reach fruit.

I hunt through the menagerie, searching for just the right apple. I over turn oranges, rearrange bananas, toss aside pears before I spot the perfect fruit. It is resting on its side, top end turned to the silver bin’s corner. I grasp it with the tongs and place it on my tray. I stand it upright, its green skin gleaming in the harsh fluorescence.

I pay for my lunch and make my way toward my table. I sit down next to my friends and start to eat. I eat the cheese pizza first. Then the pretzels. I always leave the apple for last.

My beautiful green apple rests in the little compartment to the left of the milk compartment. This apple is the apotheosis of apples. It is symmetrically curved, plump and well-rounded, with a slightly slanted stem. It is a Macintosh apple.

I close my eyes and smell the apple. The skin, unbroken and unrevealing, smells like nothing, still slippery and beaded with water droplets. I sink my teeth into it. I expect a soft munch and get a hard crunch. The apple is crisp, surprising.

I chew the sweet, tart mass, bite it into juicy lumps, and swallow it.

Only now do I realize the truth:
This apple is not a Macintosh but a Granny Smith Apple. It is repulsive and sour. I suck my lips at the taste. Its skin is coated with some chemical scum, meant to save it from bacteria. Its texture is thick and sharp. The meat of the apple is not loaded with juicy sweetness but is meshed with tart excrements.

The apple’s skin, I see now, has been dented and bruised from bouncing and beating against the other fruit in the unforgiving bin. There are little dark spots around the apple, freckling the top half. It is a wannabe perfect apple.

I take a couple more bites, drop it on my tray, toss my tray in the trash can, disappointment coursing through my thoughts. To think the school could serve decent food. To think such an ugly piece of fruit could be thought to have beauty. I cannot look through a lens, study a filtered world. I must see things how they are: let downs.

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