Tucson

I stopped at a Starbucks and got the dog out for a walk. We wandered down a dirt alley behind the store, which turned into a proper street after about a block.

One-story adobe houses with pebbled yards lined the road. Saguaro cacti big as a hug and taller than the buildings sprung up at irregular intervals, interspersed between scrubby trees. Quixo sniffed amiably at the edges of things, and I walked behind him, lost in thought, bathed in sunlight.

At the street’s corner, I swung in a slow semicircle to look back over my shoulder because something had caught my eye. The tree was barely taller than I was, with shiny, bright green leaves. Why had I turned? There was something about the tree, it was…

Limes. It was utterly covered in limes, and it was not alone. The entire street, both sides, was lined with lime trees.

This was something akin to wandering into a house and discovering it was made of candy. These were no prized backyard specimens. They were street ornamentation. The same way Mainers might plant maple or oak, some Tucsonian had planted limes. Dozens of black, rotting rinds at the base of each tree intimated an overabundance. The lime trees’ ease of production betrayed my rarefied concept of their fruit.

I picked a lime leaf and smelled it, sucking in through my nostrils until the leaf stuck there of its own accord. I put it in my mouth, crushing thin veins of emerald along the tip with my front teeth.

Flowers. Citrus. Chlorophyll. Each bite brought stronger memories and images, Indian pavilions, the indolence of collegiate Sundays, first tastes of new cuisines, a backyard I knew with my eyes shut.

I dropped off the dog and walked into Starbucks, a lime leaf between my lips.

This is, so often, how I experience the world: at sea in amazement and ecstasy in a world of the utterly ordinary. Out of touch, perhaps, but simultaneously so engaged I could cry.

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