Portrait of a Young Man Choosing his Figs

Adelaide, whose signature dish was burnt butter reduction of whatever was the least rotten in her fridge that day, bought her beansprouts from the same place as Cheong Liew and her cheese from the place she had seen Paul Kelly shopping once (he’s from round here originally don’cher know).

But the best, the very best thing Adelaide had ever seen on her weekly visit to the Central Market, was the Young Man Choosing his Figs.

Young Man with short black hair, tight t-shirt hugging tight upper bod, looking at each of the figs very carefully.

‘They would have been perfect yesterday,’ the Young Man said to his girlfriend with a disappointed shake of his head. He did not put a single just-past-perfect fig in his basket. The Young Man’s girlfriend smiled, then nodded and she looked, Adelaide thought, at the slightly imperfect figs more than a little wistfully.

Adelaide, watching the Dance of the Figs from behind the selection of excellent, if expensive, potatoes smiled when she caught the girlfriend’s eye.

‘If you want figs, you should take a walk around Unley,’ Adelaide said then she smiled. ‘They’re dripping over the fences. I see people picking them all the time. No one seems to mind. It’s that kind of fruit,’ Adelaide said using her knowing voice.

It wasn’t a lie. It wasn’t one of those things she just made up so that she could talk to someone she liked, but didn’t know. What Adelaide said was true. In only the last week, Adelaide had seen the english lecturer (clearly now retired) who had almost ruined poetry for her; a young girl with piercings galore; a woman filling the trolley on the back of her little boy’s trike; and one small woman dressed in black.

‘Where’s that?’ the Young Man said. ‘Where did you say they are?’

‘Oh,’ Adelaide said, not sure what to say faced with quite such intensity. ‘Oh, you know, just in some of those lovely old-fashioned gardens around Unley.’ She smiled, trying to cool the rising heat. ‘A Good Fig is…’ Adelaide started a sentence.

‘…Very Good,’ the Young Man said, smiling a young and passionate smile. Adelaide noticed his girlfriend squeeze his hand.

Adelaide fanned her face and turned back to the potatoes which, in a market context, was not rude.

The spirit of the Young Man followed Adelaide from the organic fruit and vegetable house, along the cheese counter and past the bread. She was still thinking of him as she scooped rice crackers, then loose tea leaves into bags; picked up her tofu and lime leaves from the Chinese Grocer (the one where she had last seen Cheong Liew); and selected her eggs (which at that price had bloody better be every organic, free range thing they said).

He was still vaguely with her as she picked up the avocadoes – three for a dollar, so you can’t go wrong – where she noticed the little boy in the pram wearing a gorgeous green and purple striped suit.

‘That’s a gorgeous suit,’ Adelaide said to the little boy’s mother.

‘Thank you,’ said the mother with, Adelaide thought, an unecessarily strained smile on her face.

And when she looked again, Adelaide realised that the little boy was, in fact, more than likely a little girl. And Adelaide thought that perhaps she might keep her thoughts to herself next week.

0 thoughts on “Portrait of a Young Man Choosing his Figs”

  1. It wasn’t a lie. It wasn’t one of those things she just made up so that she could talk to someone she liked, but didn’t know.


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