The Fruiting

Right now it’s hot unlike anything I’ve ever experienced—not Vegas skin-charring hot, Atlanta swamp-air hot, New York Chinatown garbage-smell hot or New England armpit hot. It’s Mexico low-brush-jungle, dry-season hot, a hot that still manages to be wet though there’s been no rain for weeks: high humidity, 90-plus degree temperatures, zero cloud cover.

It’s weather I find uncomfortable but also disorienting, especially for May when Facebook tells me that at home, trees are budding and people are zipping around on bicycles in light jackets.

Also bewildering is that in this heat, the trees—which by simply being leafy had fooled me into thinking they were related to trees at home—have been exploding with flowers and in many cases edible fruit that they hurl to the ground.

The hurling part is not an exaggeration. I’ll be minding my business and then a mamé the size and shape of a small football will come flying from the heavens, if I’m lucky landing near me and not on me. It’s a rough brown fruit with flesh that’s bright orange with a custardy consistency, like a cross between a papaya and a cooked sweet potato.

Also falling form the skies are whiffle-ball sized anona (red and lumpy outsides, white mushy insides), tennis-ball sized zapote (they look like hopped up kiwis with pinky-orange flesh), plus medium-sized mangos and tiny avocados.

Most recently I found what looked like plum tomatoes littering the back of my compound’s garden. My landlord explained they’re ciruelas, which I thought were another new fruit until I found out ciruela means plum. And now I’m rethinking why plum tomatoes are called plum tomatoes.

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The heat has also encouraged the vine in my kitchen to reveal its true identity. I’ve developed a real relationship with this vine since August, if I’m honest, in a kind of Wilson-the-volleyball way. It has a lot of personality.

To give you a little background, since I moved in, this vine has climbed to the second floor from the street and slunk along my patio, Spiderman-like, thwapping out tendrils that its used to drag itself forward. With respect for its chutzpah, I’ve only cut it back when it’s snuck into my kitchen and begun reaching for my apartment door. Two months ago I started routing it toward the tree off my balcony and it has now climbed almost to the top.

After months of masquerading as simply green, last week my vine friend produced, perhaps appropriately, freaky alien flowers with stringy white petal halos and purple centers.

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As it turns out, the flowers indicate my vine is actually a maracuyá, a passion fruit plant. He has yet to produce, but given the amount of violent fruit around here, I’m both hopeful and nervous.

While the vine climbs, the tree it’s climbing has begun dropping dry yellow leaves in my kitchen at an alarming rate, severely challenging my housekeeping skills. I don’t think the tree is being suffocated by the vine; the maracuyá really seems to be using the branches for height, not sustenance. But I do think the tree is fed up with the dry season. I believe it’s possible the other trees are too, thus the hurling of the fruit. This is their protest.

The area where I’m living has a lot of Maya farmers whose families have worked the fields for generations and at this time of year they still pray to the rain god Cha’ac. The all-male rituals are lead by Maya shaman (called X-men), women cook special meals as offerings, and young boys participate by making the sounds of tree frogs.

These days, I too find myself praying for rain. I huddle troll-like in the shade of my kitchen with sweat dripping down my chest and the backs of my thighs, watching the heat-loving vine, jealous of its adaptive strength, but feeling solidarity with the farmers and the trees.

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