An excerpt from my novel of Sri Lanka "The Longest Tweet."
Time for some more nice things
Time for some more nice things. Nice and gentle things. Nice and gentle things taking place, not necessarily in the visitor's language. Not his own language. A sharing time. A giving time. Celebration. With music. Happy time. Happy happy. Invite friends. Invite staff. Order a cake. A birthday cake. Sing happy birthday to no one. To some one. Someone whose birthday it is but who's not here. Actually it's the waning hours of their birthday (it's twins! It's a girl! It's a boy!). Slice slice plop plop wah wah out they came. Now they're not here but somewhere else, back in the stranger's country where it's nine hours behind and many years ahead. Decades. Easily. Wah wah they're not here but we can sing them a happy birthday like we've done now for twenty years thirty years. Grab a cake. Order a cake. Have it sliced. Put the slices of chocolate butter cake on plates. Serve the whole group, the kitchen staff, the garden staff, the cleaners and servers and waiters and washers and watchers. What?! His two favorite people well two of his favorite people the farmer and the pool man are absent. That's sad. A small sadness. Not to share with them.
Sharing multiplies the sharing. Could I write anything triter? Could I write anything truer? More tweetable? Sending messages to friends "Happy Independence Day!" Brings back smiley faces. On twitter. He forces them to use twitter, which they don't like, because he doesn't use Facebook. Not a terrible thing. Not a sad thing as things go. You have a stomach full. In a good way. And then come bananas to your table. Home bananas. Gedera kessel if you live in the other part of Sri Lanka not officially partitioned but with a wide zone of separation. A gulf of separation. A Gulf of Separation. The bananas are too much on a stomach sated with pitthu and dahl curry and to top it off coconut sambol. A coconut-heavy coconut-light meal. But you've got to do your part. Keep that pile of young coconuts trained. There are more of them ripening on the nearby trees and they must be cut down or tourists will be bonked on the head. What about the farmer? He could be bonked too. What about his nephew the night watchman who goes around lighting the lights at night and putting them out by morning light. Night. Light. Nigh. Lie. Stop. You said you'd keep it nice. Nice means no lies and don't give anyone a chance to lie. Just a nice piece of cake and a nice big smile.
We stop to the owner's house to try some mango. The mango is kept out on the table peeled and sliced and living under a woven straw dome. No fly or anything gets in there. "Eat a piece," the visitor is told. "Eat a big piece," he is ordered after he takes his first piece. First piece of a big mother mango. These mangos can cost a lot of rupees he's told. The mango is good and thank goodness he didn't have the cake. It was for his own twins but he didn't eat the cake. Is not eating the cake at a birthday party, your own birthday party or a birthday party for your own kids a bad thing? I think in the balance it is not. And I think in these circumstances it's a good thing because the mango is a bit overwhelming, just a bit overwhelming because when afternoon comes he must ride down to Kattankudy and eat a lunch with people who will want to overload him. Whose duty it is to overload him. To eat like a prince for at breakfast you're told to eat like a king and at lunchtime you're told to eat like a prince and at dinner you're told (suggested portion size) to eat like a beggar. Or was it to give your dinner to a beggar? See. I told you it wasn't his language but anyway see how far he got without language? Right into the owner's home. Right into the home his owner called "like a farmer's home." Right to the mango on the table peeled and sliced, something you'd have to pay many Sri Lanka rupees for in the market and something you'd take a chance on in the market. You might pick a bad one. Off with the bad thoughts now! And on to the lady's finger patch.
The okras grow there tall and proud, if a plant can be proud. Can it? And the owner tells him, "young ones you can eat raw. And if you tell them in the kitchen they'll just sautée it for you nicely. Here." A young or not so young fruit is snapped off the plant. A calyptra-like tip is untipped, disposed of, the owner cleans off a few insect looking things with his own hand and he hands it to the visitor. Crunch. Sweet. Edible. Gummy and mucilaginous inside. Has to be. It's an okra. Cotton and hibiscus family. Lecture over? Not quite yet. What about tomatoes (also coming up on the farm), brinjal (lots of varieties) and peppers hot hotter and hottest? His host says "hibiscus family" botany was his favorite subject but there's a lot of water under the bridge. Visitor says no. "Solanaceae." Lotta water under the bridge but not as much. "Oh yes! Solanaceae." It has a nice ring. It makes sense. It makes the world vine together. It deactivates, temporarily, the active chaos of the natural world. Puts it into three bites and five syllables. Count 'em. Use your fingers if you like.
They finish by looking at the rabbits the owner just fed and the tortoise climbing her ramp for all she's worth. The hares are burrowing. The tortoise is climbing. Tortoise and hare. It's another nice day on the breezy shady farm near the lagoon. Liked that didn't you? I promised you something nice for your birthday.