The Age of Mangoes

September 13, 2010
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Its a dull Saturday and the old man on the porch is leaning forward on his stool
he’s not looking at the sunset as it goes down in purples and pinks
he’s too focused on his feet, which have worn with time
I assume he is nearly 80, an age so old, so far away in my young mind
Imagining that age is nearly impossible. It is a reality within an unreality
I gaze out of the window where I am sitting and cannot help but watch the man
he sits so simply and nothing bothers him
his wrinkles tell stories and his hands shake slightly from years of experiences
he mumbles, a distant look upon his round face
He seems to me a stereotype. A typical old man with all of the answers in the palm of his hand
All old men seem the same.
Their eyes are always blue. They are always kind hearted and smell of peppermint, an elegant pipe in their hand. They tell silly jokes and grow sweeter as they grown older, the ripping of a mango
until it rots. only the aroma still lingering in the kitchen..
Will I be this way too when I am old?
I cannot be sure. But something tells me I will be different. I will be different, I am sure.
A voice calls me to dinner and I leave the mysterious man with the white hair and striped pink shirt.
His demeanor is still imprinted on my memory. Something about him. He seemed to say something words could not utter.
I never knew what it was about him..

Its early and the market people are shouting
I find them silly and laugh, then skip over to a booth full of the juiciest mangos, life incarnate
Oh to bite into one! The skin is thick and my teeth enjoy it’s soft texture as I tug at it, viciously trying to get to the sweetness it envelops.
I think only of the present moment, and the present lasts forever.
My senses think only of the next bite, then suddenly they see the old man, chuckling at me.
Silly man, I don’t know why he is jeering.
And to my horror, he begins to walk over to where I am standing, slowly but steadily.
I tell my feet to stay put. I can deal with old men and I won’t let him bother me. He’s probably just lost his mind...
He continues to jeer.
as he walks closer however, I see that he is actually smiling...
“Ah the Mango”, he says and I have to read his lips to understand what he is saying over the chattering crowd at the market.
I nod, and smile because I know mother would expect me to be polite.
“It’s taste never changes! Amazing. When I was a little boy id eat the same mango I eat today.. and eat it the same way.”, he continued
I didn’t understand why I needed to hear this. So many other things I could be doing than listening this old man go on about his childhood.
“yes, they’re very good”, I reply somewhat wryly.
“mmhmm. I have the technique mastered, for eating them that is”. His white hair glows in the sun.
and then he surprises me. In his wrinkled palm, he holds a smooth mango, ripened to perfection.
He seems to crave it and places both of his hands on the fruit and then begins to press, biting a small hole at one end.
His mouth fills the hole, and he begins to suck the honey from the hive.
His eyes twinkle and I have never seen an old man quite so enthusiastic about a mango.
I laugh out loud and find him foolish but in my heart is also slight admiration...
He has mango all over his face and grins like a small child when he is done.
“thats how i’ve always done it”
exasperated but glowing he waves goodbye.
I smile and go home.

That was 50 years ago. I was only 15. And suddenly I understand.
I don’t know if I smell like peppermint, or if I make silly jokes. I do not smoke a pipe. My eyes are slightly glassier, this has come with old age. My cheeks are not as rosy, and I spend less time looking into a mirror at my reflection.
my experiences circle in my mind, the images vibrant with color in my faded vision which has become black and white with age.
I have not changed much over time, maybe I am still sixteen..I will never know when I stopped aging.
this realization stuns me slightly and I smile, knowingly. The old man I watched so many years ago.
I thought him old and out of date but I was wrong. Only the years had circled by, not the character of the man.
I fondly remember the young person I was and still am and will continue to be.
no one forgot the taste of the mango even after it was long digested.
I promise that I will always be the same taste, the same fragrance as the first mango bought at the morning market.
fresh as birth.

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