The Cantaloupe At first glance, the cantaloupe looks round and light grayish-tan, with a hint of green. From afar it looks round and plain, about the size of a peewee soccer ball. On approach, the circular shape is less perfect with subtle dents and bumps all around. Surrounding the sphere shaped fruit are light tan lines like a dense city map with all the streets intertwining and curving around without any significant pattern, not geometric like gridlines. On the surface, there are small matchbook sized patches color the skin, some more yellow and other patches that are darker green.
A particular indention looks like the fruit might have laid on a rock on the ground while it was growing. One end, where the flower might have once been, is the palest of yellow circles. On the opposite edge, the stubby vestige of a stem remains. This dried up nub is the brown and shriveled, slightly indented from the rest of the globe. Surrounding the stem is a dark circle of hunter green. Picking it up from the counter, the weight of this globular object seems significantly heavier than it looks, like a mini bowling ball.
Despite the volume, it feels that the weight is not solid which is proven by the hollow sound the fruit makes when tapped, like patting a child on the head. The delineated lines feel like webbing and give the fruit a rough feel, but it’s not an uncomfortable roughness. The experience is somewhere in between a prickly cactus and a furry peach. At this point my mind starts to wander. Should I cut it open now or wait? Should I take a break? I look outside at the fat flakes of snow coming down outside and remind myself to get back to the task at hand.
There is no resentment or anger. I look again at this object I have assigned myself to detail. When I am at a loss as to how to describe something in particular my mind wandering happens more frequently. I continue to focus my attention back to the cantaloupe as soon as I realize I’ve been distracted. I hold the cantaloupe to my eye. There is a faint line of brownish green that runs through the net-like lines covering the fruit. Some of the spaces between the lines look like parks because they’re darker green, while others ook grey like the concrete of a parking lot. My mind wanders again and I start to look to see if there are any recognizable maps in squiggles. I see a roundabout that reminds me of an intersection in England and another resembles the neighborhood where I grew up. The intertwining layers of the lines remind me of overgrown vines on a wall covering another layer of skin. The underneath layer has the vague look of green splotches, almost veins, like the streaks that run through blue cheese. I thump the cantaloupe again. It substitutes as a drum to make a tune.
Apparently it has different thicknesses inside because the sound it makes when you knock it on the end is a higher pitch than when you rap it in the middle. One spot must be particularly thick because the sound is more substantial. Rubbing the skin makes the same sound as rubbing your hands together on a dry winter day. I try to make other noises using the produce, but intuition tells me that the only way to get another sound is to drop it on the floor. I’m not willing to do that. Before cutting into the orb, I notice a whiff of eau-de grocery store produce aisle a bit past its sell-by date.
The smell isn’t strong and it’s only when I touch the fruit to my nose that I smell this. I then sniff each different area of the outer layer and notice that where the flower once might have been the smell is much stronger and sweeter. I scratch my finger nails on the rough skin, but it doesn’t affect the scent the way it would with an orange or lemon. It’s time to cut into the orb. Even as the knife makes the first gouge, clear pale orange juice escapes. I lick my fingers and find the sweet taste refreshing and different.
Although the juice is the color of a Satsuma mandarin or a commercial worthy carrot, it tastes nothing like either. Slicing the melon in half, the cantaloupe now resembles a geode, with a plain outside and a brightly colored exotic inside. It’s filled with seeds and goo in the center. The slimy innards resemble the finest angel hair pasta, but instead of being the color of regular noodles, they are varying shades of orange, some even translucent. I carve out this gooey inside and the sweet smell now fills the air with its cloying tropical fermented flower mell. Friends who have been watching a movie in the other room come to see if they can have some, the smell having tempted them away from what they are doing. Ironic, because I’m no longer interested in the cantaloupe and ready to toss it into the composting bin. I send everyone away so that I can continue on. The meaty flesh isn’t too tough, nor is it too soft. I take a bite and let the flavor rush across my tongue. The taste reminds me of summers on the farm eating the freshest fruits and vegetables straight out of the garden still warm from the sun.
There’s a touch of salt in the taste, but the sweetness overpowers it. In spite the firm texture, the fruit feels soft and chewy and the volume of nectar is astounding. The tissue is softer and moister than the similar essence of a pumpkin and more compact than the inside of a fig. Squishing the orange flesh with my fingers, it all but dissolves into juice. What little remains is the finest of strings as soft as silk. I find a seed still attached, that I missed. The kernel is a flat oval with semi-pointed ends. Like a flat football with the air taken away, but miniscule in comparison.
It’s almost as though the surrounding fibrous slime is dissolving in the air as I watch. I break open a seed using my fingernail. It’s soft and waxy, not much there. I take a wedge of the sliced cantaloupe and look at the difference between the skin and the edible meat. Like a rainbow, the color changes from thick rind on the outside to the orange moist, fleshy core on the inside. Like the color spectrum, the differences in shades are subtle, but quick. A yellow stratum is the most predominant, but considering the layer in question is less than an eighth of an inch thick, this golden subcutaneous layer isn’t very big.
I make sure there isn’t anything I’ve overlooked and to check my notes for missing descriptive words. I’m shocked to look at the clock and see that more time has passed than I would have expected. I went several hours without checking my watch; something I can only do when I’m not bored. Learning to look beyond the obvious is something I already knew how to do. I enjoy observing people and watching facial expressions for meaning. What I’m not good at it is sitting still and holding my attention for long periods of time. Exercises like this help to train my brain to “settle own, focus, and catch up” as local monologuist Josh Kornbluth says. While I had to make a few self directed corrections along the way, I was fairly pleased that I was able to block out a significant amount of what was going on with family and friends in the other rooms and outdoors. Yes, there were a few times that my attention wandered, but I was back on track in seconds rather than hours or days. The reward at the end was to finish a paper I was happy with and to share the small remainder of the cantaloupe with my friends while on a weekend away. Mission accomplished!