by John Berger
[Nearly everything Berger writes reads like a prose poem. These delicate prose pieces are extracted from his “fictional memoir” Here is Where We Meet.]
We looked for greengages every year during the month of August. Frequently they disappointed. Either they were unripe, fibrous, almost dry, or else they were over-soft and mushy. Many were not worth biting into, for one could feel with one’s finger that they did not have the right temperature: a temperature unfindable in Celsius or Fahrenheit: the temperature of a particular coolness surrounded by sunshine. The temperature of a small boy’s fist.
The boy is somewhere between eight and ten-and-a half years old, the age of independence, before the press of adolescence. The boy holds the greengage in his hand, brings it to his mouth, bites, and the fruit darts its tongue against the back of his throat so that he swallows its promise.
A promise of what? Of something that has not yet been named and he will soon name. He tastes a sweetness which no longer has anything to do with sugar, but with a limb which goes on and on, and seems to have no end. The limb belongs to a body which he can only see with his eyes shut. They body has three more limbs and a neck and ankles and is like his own; except that it is inside out. Through the limb without end flows a sap ⎯ he can taste it between his teeth ⎯ the sap of a nameless pale wood, which he calls girl-tree.
It was enough that one greengage in a hundred reminded us of that.