Arteries & Fruit: Travel Adventures in Bogotá

FLASH FICTION BY EMILY PASKEVICS

 

This morning, while waiting for a bus in Bogotá, an old woman saw me writing in my notebook and told me to record her story. She held a basket of round, red fruits. She started with a sigh.

“When I was your age, mija, I had my heart broken by a beautiful man. He was handsome and spoke like a poet. He loved me thoroughly and then left our pueblito for the city, and never returned.

“My father was a maracuyá farmer. You know passionfruit, with its thick rind and tartness. The night my heart broke, I was slicing maracuyás to make juice. Back then we didn’t have a blender—we did everything by hand. My hands and the hands of my sisters were always sticky from pressing juice.

“That night I was weeping all over the fruit. The ache in my chest was terrible and I wanted to get rid of it. So I took a big maracuyá and opened it with a clean cut from the blossom-end up. I scraped out the thick pulp with a spoon, and rinsed the shell clean.

 

Paloquemao, Bogotá 2

 

“And then, mija—” the old woman leaned close—“I opened my chest. I made a little scratch with the knife’s tip, and it didn’t even hurt. Nothing could be worse than that pain in my heart. I peeled my flesh from the cut and reached between my ribs to where my heart was hanging, split in two equal parts. I unhooked one half, not squeezing too hard, and placed it inside the empty maracuyá shell. Then I stitched my chest back up with red thread, using honey to stick the two halves of the fruit together. I licked the seam clean. That night I buried it under the tallest maracuyá tree in our orchard.

“That was fifty years ago,” the old woman said. “And now, mira.

She pressed one of the red fruits from her basket into my hand. Maracuyás are usually yellow or green on the outside, but this one was red. The old woman grinned. She leaned closer, glanced around us, and unfastened two buttons of her blouse. There was a thin scar over her left breast.

 

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“Yes, mija,” she said, “it’s possible to survive your whole life with just half a heart.”

A bus roared up and the old woman gestured that it was hers. Mouth dry, all I could say was gracias, abuela. The bus disappeared in a choke of diesel smoke. The fruit was warm in my hands. It began to rain.

Now, after dinner, I slice the red fruit with a knife. It splits into two equal parts. Usually maracuyá pulp is a mix of yellow, grey, or orange, but this one is blood-crimson and the seeds are a vicious red-black, like clots. I spoon out a mouthful. It tastes familiar, but richer than any maracuyá I’ve had before. It’s almost saline—like passion fruit mixed with honey and salt. The aftertaste is metallic. My own heart pounds as I swallow every bite down.

 

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Currently based in Montreal, Emily Paskevics is the author of a chapbook called “The Night That Was Animal, or Methods in the Art of Rogue Taxidermy” (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). Other publications include Hart House Review, Vallum Magazine, Acta Victoriana, Rogue Agent, OCCULUM, and UofT Magazine. She works with literary translation for OOMPH Press, and has contributed to Lola WhoLuna Luna Magazine, and Culture Trip. Follow along @epaskev.

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