The berries no one eats

Humans love berries, when they are so ripe and plump in clumps that some end up fallen, scattered on the ground. These yellow ones are called Mayom, or gooseberries. No one knows where it comes from, not even the Thais who use them in som tam, a fruit salad known for catching one’s tongue in a  surprise of heat and tartness.

At the heart of every girl, there’s a room for spice and sourness after a big meal, chunks of raw mangoes dipped in sugar and salt and ground chilies, mixed together in a tiny plastic bag. They love green papayas, too. Shredded, spiced and pounded in a wooden mortar. So, the gooseberries grow, left to bid their time for a fall.

One day a girl arrives with her husband and a newborn son. It’s her first homecoming trip after years living abroad as a wife to a European husband. At the sight of Mayom fruit, the berries she once tasted as a child, her mouth waters. She starts plucking the gooseberries from their limbs, which are just within her reach.

At first bite, saliva floods her mouth, squirting all over her tongue. The girl runs back to her room, empties a bag, and begins the harvest. Squating on the concrete, she sweeps the fruit up with both of her palms. The girl knows there’s no way she’ll eat all that she’s gathered, for her plane leaves for Spain tomorrow. But at least, at the terminal, there will be enough left for her last taste of home.