Durian

We are waiting for his father to finish work. It’s a Friday night and we’re treating ourselves to a cheap meal out. We’re both in the car outside his workplace, but his father is taking ages to leave the building.

I’m bored. He’s bored. I turn to to our son and ask him the first thing that comes into my head.

“Now, if you were a fruit, what fruit would you be?”

He carefully considers the question before asking “What’s that fruit with the horrible smell? The one that smells like poo and vomit at the same time?”

“A durian,” I answer.

“I would be a durian.”

“Why would you be a durian??”

“Because I don’t want anyone to eat me.”

His father comes out and I start the car. I don’t tell our boy there are millions of people who can look past the obvious smell; that their love for the sweet and creamy fruit can sometimes border on passionate obsession. Our boy wouldn’t last five minutes as a durian in some company.

His response takes me back to the first time I tasted the king of fruits. We were living in Singapore. My father came home one evening with something big, round and spiky.

Mum must have known what it was immediately because she told dad not to cut it open inside the apartment. We took it to the kitchen instead.

Our kitchen opened out to a small balcony outside. It was a warm night away from the air conditioned living room. The muggy heat clung to our clothes and skin. The air felt thick and heavy. I remember the sound of the passing traffic down below and how the streets glowed orange from the lights. The white kitchen tiles felt cool against my hot feet.

Dad took hold of a big knife and cut the fruit open. The smell wasn’t instantly pungent, but it built gradually in the evening heat. It grew stronger as we came close to its fleshy inside. It was sweet and putrid. I held my breath as I took a bite of the fruit. It was delicious.

I ate my fill and ran to the living room to avoid the smell. But traces of it followed me. We couldn’t escape it. Dad laughed. Mum shook her head.

Decades later, my parents are living in Hobart, Tasmania. I have my own family, and we’re walking down the streets of Chatswood, looking for something to eat for dinner.

I watch my husband and son walk ahead of me. My two Australian men. Both born and bred here. I begin to feel a little out of place. Then I remember, I am Australian too. All three of us, shaped by this country and each with our own experience to contribute.

I think I will introduce them to durian soon. It’ll be interesting to see what they think.

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