When people ask me if I miss it, I tell them about mangos.
I’d never had a mango until I moved to New York. The first one was long and tough, like a pear with thicker skin, and it smelled like places I’d never been. I ate the meaty part and then ran my teeth over the skin to pull away strings of flesh. I sucked the pit until my tongue ached. It was like a rainstorm in my mouth.
After that I ate mangos every day. I liked the way they felt in my hand, as heavy and smooth as stones. I liked the rough part of the fruit, the part that rubbed against your throat when you swallowed. I liked the juice on my gums. They were a full body experience, a dance in my blood. I liked to hold them before I split the skin. I liked the way my tongue felt afterwards, thick and tired.
One night in a bar a man came up to me and said, “Tell me something about yourself.”
I smiled. I was drinking bourbon, so much bourbon I could feel it in my bones.
“I’ve never said no to a mango,” I told him.
We dated for two years.
Then one day I was done with mangos. The stores in New York stopped importing them and I ate other things, and loved them: snap peas, bagels with egg salad, carrot juice, St. Andre’s cheese. I stopped craving mangos.
I broke up with the man from the bar. I grew my hair long and cut it off again. I stopped wearing denim skirts. In a florescent office, I met a man who had a tongue like mine, a mouth made for texture, softness, pleasure. We snuck behind the counter at Dean & Deluca and ate spoonfuls of hundred-dollar caviar. We spent all night in Blue Ribbon eating otoro and lobster carpaccio, then fucked against the bathroom wall while the waiter outside adjusted his tie and blushed. In our apartment, he fed me strawberry ice cream while I came, and when we slept, curled tightly around each other, we shared the smells and memories of our skin, mixing the lingering sweetness of our bodies’ labors.
One day I saw a wooden box of mangos at a corner deli. I bought one and took it home. It was soft at first touch, then harder underneath. I smelled the leathery green skin and thought about how it would dance in my mouth. I cut it open and my hands were wet with it, the spaces between my fingers sticky like webs. I peeled away the skin until it was splayed out, canoes of yellow.
But all I could taste was nostalgia for the time when I ate mangoes with my entire body. There was no longer any sweet fruit blossom in my blood. The mango was good, but that was all — good like an espresso after dinner, or a warm cookie. Good to eat, good to forget.
It was only my body that didn’t know anything had changed. My body still doesn’t know. Every time I eat a mango, my nerves go dizzy in anticipation. They wait for the soft explosions of pleasure that will never come.
So when people ask me if I miss it, I tell them it’s like that. When I smell it, when I taste it, when I see it, cut clean and waiting for me — my skin dances. My skin quakes with desire. I feel its promise in my spine. Oh I want it. Oh I want my bones to ache with it, I want my heart to tremble with it. But it doesn’t happen anymore. Even if I give in, even if I breathe deep and it comes rushing inside me, straight to my blood, a thundering thrill in my brain: The best I can feel is the lukewarm memory of that ripe, old pleasure.