< persimmons

11/18/18 (17:42)

I have an astringent persimmon sitting on the nightstand by my bed, and I am waiting for it to ripen. I bought it on a whim. Over the last week it has gone from orange to a deep red, although its shoulders (which are at the bottom now, as it is inverted on its little stand, an upside down flower-pot) remain lighter and firmer. If I were to eat it now these shoulders would certainly dry out my mouth and make the whole experience unpleasant. My worry, though, is that if I let the fruit soften entirely, its top will begin to rot before the bottom (re the current ‘top’) is ready to consume. I have never done this before, so I don’t know what will happen, or what to expect.

The fruit can alternatively be cooked or dried to remove the astringency. Drying involves hanging the fruit by a window for weeks, peeling its skin off, massaging it (at least traditionally). Cooking is simpler but also leaves you with cooked fruit, which is not everyone’s ideal. None of these alternatives is particularly feasible or appealing, and besides, the fruit that I bought didn’t come with its stem, so there’s little hope of hanging it (they say you can use a nail). So the fruit is sitting on my nightstand, ripening in the direction of doom.

It reminds me of a story people sometimes tell, as an allegory for what hell might be like. Coincidentally it can also be the basis for some jokes, usually crude. In the story you are on an elevator, and the elevator operator tells you that you will see every floor, and you may choose to get off on any floor, but if you choose to see the next floor (which may be better, but may be worse) you are unable to choose to go back. In the hell allegory these floors contain fields of punishments, in the jokes usually desirable women. The story continues, listing the contents of the floors in detail. The lesson is that the power of hope usually overpowers the fear of damnation—people never accept even very good floors. Their very goodness encourages the fallacy that there are better floors to come. That the whole building is elevated by the goodness of any of its parts. The horror of the story is not the final floor’s contents, but the participant's memories of all the better floors they gave up. These awful, inaccessible but definitely lesser horrors. Most horror, I think, is this kind of 'horror of (in)accessibility.'

When I look at this fruit I wonder when I should cut my losses. In a way, the overdefined concept-object of the fruit is the epitome of our crises of indecision. One of those things that has a ‘sweet spot,’ i.e., a kind of optimum where (1) this optimum is surrounded by two very bad (or badly perceived) sub-optimums and (2) the timescale of these transitions is relatively quick. Going, going, gone. Lamentations.

And it feels like I shouldn’t be obsessing over the fruit. But I do. But there is also the very real observation that its colors are already pretty, and the texture of its flesh already varied and interesting. I don’t even particularly crave persimmon. The astringency won’t kill me anyway. Persimmons are not even hard to get, or in high demand in this part of the world. Some people go so far as to say they are ornamental. Or they just buy the non-astringent kind, which is more like an apple.

I do not have to keep this fruit—I don’t even have to abandon entirely the whole fruit project. If I wanted to I could throw it away and try again. A different kind of light, or a different temperature, or I could put it in a bag with a ripe tomato, to encourage proper ripening. I should appreciate instead that the persimmon is a winter/fall fruit. A splash of color and sugar when everything else is gray and most trees have become skeletons. It is a ghostly fruit. In fact, I don’t even know what to think of it.

Where I grew up, there was an adult persimmon tree in our yard, by the driveway. And every fall, it would be the last tree to drop its fruit onto our driveway (we could never eat them all. We already had a pear tree, a loquat tree, a peach tree, a fig tree, an orange tree. We got tired of beautiful fruit.). These firm, bright orange orbs melted into our driveway. They left stains. Their leafy stelliform tops were the last things left in a puddle of dehisced, browned fruit flesh.

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