I’ve never eaten a guava, I’ve never even seen one, though I’m pretty sure it’s a sexy fruit. I’m certainly attracted to the word guava anyway. You have to open your mouth, linger expectantly for a moment. Diphthongs will do that I guess—two similar sounds in close proximity, so comfortable, yet fresh, even exciting when taken together. They leave room for personal choice too. Just how long you hold that “ua” depends on your mood. Then comes the “v,” a chance for the teeth to take a little bite of those cuddled vowels. And how appropriate to end with the mouth reopening to exhale that trailing “a.” Lovely. I don’t know what a guava tastes like, but it is delicious to say.
The word also has good form, sits nicely on the page. It conjures something that might roll a little, but not straight off a table. And the word has weight. If dropped, it would go splat, since I see no natural place to cleave it. To open such a word would require thumbs with a delicate touch. The “v” would offer too much resistance, the vowel combinations would be tempting, but unnatural. The best you could hope for would be to break off the “G”—which leaves you a nibble and some juice.
Yes we have no guavas, I can’t find any, my town is out. So I settle on a passion fruit. Only slightly larger than an egg, the skin is hard and cracked and looks a little like the outside of a chili held over the flame in preparation for peeling. “Wrinkled when ripe,” says the sticker. What old person wouldn’t be attracted to such a declaration, to the bold assertion that perfection isn’t smooth-skinned? And yet, face to face with a passion fruit, my own wrinkles don’t help, I feel anything but experienced. I have no idea what part to eat, whether to peel it or cut it, whether this one is even wrinkled enough. But after some preliminary poking, I just take a big knife and slice it in half. The whole thing pinches together, resists the blade, yields only reluctantly. Lo and behold, the insides are mustard yellow and black and pink and white. The rind is a tongue enlarged a hundred times, the fruit a viscous blend of black seeds held in a soup of yellow goo. It reminds me of a sea treasure—a rare anemone, a squishy oyster—alive, inviting. Now.