Fish eyes under the mango tree

The sun burns my forehead as I seek refuge under the mango tree on the way back to my hotel. Beads of sweat run down my forehead and drip down my nose. Droplets suspended momentarily like little bubbles before bursting as they hit my chest. I use the back of my hand to wipe my nose, take my handkerchief out of my pocket and wipe the back of my neck. I feel rivers of sweat soak into my shirt as I lower myself onto someone’s wooden stool thrown carelessly against the tree. I look up as the smell of the ripening fruit wafts down, demanding my attention. Bulging yellowish green chubby temptations look down on me, ready to be plucked and devoured. I am tempted, but not sure if it is the right thing to do. Mangos have always been one of my favourite fruits. Mangos, pineapples and mangosteens. Fruits of the gods.

Children play nearby. Wide bright smiles as they jump up, stamp their feet, clap and sing. There is a repetition in the sequence. Jump once, clap twice, stamp feet twice, and clap three times. Jump again. Hard to follow at first. But then I can sense the rhythm. They sing a repeating phrase, clapping at the end of it, falling down in laughter when one of them messes up and disrupts the sequence.

A woman sells plantains nearby, chatting to everyone who stops to buy the essential ingredient for the ubiquitous Fufu –the staple of the afternoon meal. Eaten with pepper soup or light soup. Fish or meat or a mixture of both cooked in a spicy sauce or gravy. Reminds me of my grandmother’s curries but not as good. Nothing is.

Fish is everywhere and eaten fresh or smoked. Every evening the smell of smoked fish imposes itself on the village, puncturing the heavy humid evening air. A smell that takes getting used to. Not like the smell of the mangos, which I am now luxuriating in. I allow my post-Fufu, mid-afternoon mind to wander aimlessly in the heat. I feel sleepy and lazy. Is this why us dwellers of sun drenched lands lag behind our European counterparts from cooler climes? Too lazy to move in the heat. “Lets do it tomorrow.” I don’t know if that’s true. I’ll think about it tomorrow.

My eyes wander over to where birds are squabbling. They look like small seagulls fighting over a fish head, picking the flesh off the bones. The head gets thrown around; two birds fight over the eye. A tasty morsel and a prize for the gull. For humans too. My mind wanders back to my childhood. My father is sitting in front of his yellow fish curry and rice. Gouges the eye out of the head and pops it into his mouth with relish. Mmmm… offers me the other. I look at the milky glazed eyeball glaring at me, daring me to eat it. 

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