Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Pulp Faction

I bought orange juice last night. Not an entire gallon, just a single serving, with medium pulp. Given the option, I would have chosen maximum pulp, but alas there was none to be found. Knowing the possible ensuing consequences, I raised the container to my winter-chapped lips and let the bittersweet texture roll through my mouth, down my awaiting esophagus to my acid-loathing stomach. You see, about a year and a half ago I was diagnosed with acid reflux and have cut back on a lot of the foods I love in order to appease my volcanic digestive system. While I have gone back to coffee, I have ceased my ritual breakfast of apple slices with peanut butter. I have descended to a lower zest salsa and given up a lot of mint and chocolate. I have not had orange juice since I don't know when.

Sitting in my car, I tipped back the last of the nectar, savoring every single drop. Yet, even as I licked a tiny bit of pulp from the rim, memories flooded back of sweeter sips still. I tasted the best juice ever in the Dominican Republic. Whether from the corner store carton or a vat homemade by the village women, my taste buds have never received such delectable succor from heat and thirst. While pondering this, other memories seeped in, not all happy, but all worthwhile.

I remember Allende, whose unused phone number still sits creased in my Bible. And I remember Elena, a sweet little girl of about 5 or 6 I met in a campo (village) set off from the road. We spent two days in the campo, painting a church and playing with the children. I met Elena the first day and promised to play again when we came back. Yet, on day two Elena was nowhere to be found, so another girl took us to find her. Along the way we passed beautiful gullies and trees brimming with ripe limoncias. Once we reached Elena's home, she ran out to great us in shorts and a t-shirt, her pigtails flopping with each bound.

To no avail, I tried to convince her mother that we would just be playing and getting dirty and a dress was not necessary, that Elena would be better off in her shorts and t-shirt. However, before she could come back with us, her mother made her put on a nice dress, to impress us I suppose, though I stood there in my bathing suit, wife beater and gym shorts. On the trek back home the day before, my Adidas sandals had ripped apart and now shone in the light patched with silvery duct tape. While we waited for Elena, I surveyed my duct-tape patched sandals, then sweeping my gaze to the dirt floor, up the clay walls and eventually around the sparsely decorated room.

I remember the thought of Elena returning home that evening, her best dress muddied and soiled saddened me greatly, knowing how fiercely my mother would react had it been me. Looking back, I wonder at the parallel of my own universe. I get ready in the morning, put on a face to impress a makeup-less world and carefully zip up my best dress only to slide through the mud. Every morning consists of getting made up only to return unmade by the end of the day. Yet, what good is life if we don't get our hands dirty? And what good are best dresses if we never wear them, afraid to soil them? Perhaps Elena and her mother had the right idea after all. Makes me want to wear my pearls while washing the floor; you know, if I had pearls--or washed the floor.