August 26, 2021

Every year around this time, boxes appear on front lawns, paper signs poking up from them that say things like “free” and “please take.” Inside the boxes are all kinds of pears—Bartlett, Asian, Anjou—picked from neighbors’ garden trees. I have begun to hunt for and hoard signs of normalcy like a dragon plucking gold from villagers’ homes. I don’t even realize I’m doing it, until I come upon something like a box of pears on a lawn, and instantly, my heart unfurls from its fist. A remnant from a time before the strongest thing we felt was fear—fear especially of each other—before the strongest thing we knew was a deep, abiding animosity for anyone who did or said or thought something different from the vein of reason we’d decided was correct. Never have I ever felt truth to be such a fleeting, fickle thing: shape-shifting and elusive as a curl of purple smoke. Never have I ever wished to leave the house and hear people talking about anything else. Several years ago, I was on a bus, crawling through the countryside of Croatia, homes and walls still revealing signs of former wars. We witnessed structure after structure that had been blown to bits, and then, out of nowhere, there’d be a sagging but in-tact cottage, a woman on the porch flapping a tablecloth in the wind. Instantly, a wave of relief would roll through me. So it is with the box of pears. So it is with the group of senior citizens who meet at the park to attend a dance class, reggae pumping through the trees. So it is with the people I wave and say “good morning” to as I run past them, who don’t have time to tell me who’s right or wrong today. So it is with the streets that change only with the seasons, the trees who drop their fruit for everyone, and always have, and always will. On my way back, I choose two pears from one of the boxes and hold them in my open hand.

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