Avocados (Or, Finding Unexpected Parallels)

(CW: minor knife injury, blood)

My favorite way to eat an avocado is simple. Select an avocado that you think will be edible inside based on its outer color and degree of firmness. Take a sharp knife and cut around the outside to create two roughly equally sized halves. Twist and pull to separate them. Set the half holding the pit on the counter and carefully, carefully use the tip of your knife to remove the pit. Sprinkle salt over the avocado’s flesh, preferably over the sink to minimize mess. Consume immediately, using the avocado as its own bowl.

Picking an avocado at the store is tricky, though. Every time I buy one, I review the array of choices before me, trying to do my best to make a suitable choice, even though I know I can never be fully sure I’ve gotten it right because often even the ones I thought would be good can turn out awful once I open them up, like my local supermarket’s knack for selling avocados that seem perfectly fine, but then ripen unevenly, going overly mushy on one side while still being rock hard and inedible on the other. Sometimes I think the avocado I’ve chosen has reached its ideal ripeness, only to open it up and find out I’m only half correct — part of the flesh is just fine, but the rest is far gone to rot. I have consumed so many partially rotten avocados (carefully eating around the awful bits) just because I didn’t want to waste the good parts.

Lately I’ve been thinking that trying to eat an avocado is very much like my dating experiences. The parallels are almost comical — picking someone I think I’ll be compatible with, nurturing them until the time seems right and hoping they’ll be sweet and tender at the core, the disappointment when I realize that something is rotten between us, trying to salvage what I can for far longer than I should. If you don’t handle avocados carefully, you will get hurt. If you don’t handle your heart carefully, you will get hurt.

For instance, in 2017 I went through a breakup with a guy who to me was like finding that lucky avocado. He treated me better than anyone I’d dated before and while he wasn’t perfect and I did have a couple of misgivings, I thought we were a good match. I wasn’t naive enough to think he might be The One, but after five months I was in love and thought that perhaps he was someone I would be with for a long haul. Until I was faced with the idea that I maybe didn’t understand him as well as I thought I did. He abruptly broke up with me immediately after I spent a weekend in Boston gushing to my friends about how great things were, which honestly made me feel really embarrassed on top of my breakup misery. How could I have misjudged the feel of him so badly?

I’d already been struggling with my mental health because my job was in a particularly insufferable phase at that time and my search for a new one wasn’t panning out. So losing him so suddenly on top of my existing shitty feelings sent me into the tempest and on some strange journeys, like leaving work “sick” to drive down the shore in the rain and stare at the foggy, thrashing sea. Like hopping back into online dating way before I was ready and winding up going another round with a certain Ghost. Like standing in my kitchen on a day I’d called out of work, clutching an avocado in a hand shaking from hunger because I’d chosen the unfeeling void of sleep over nourishing the body that held my struggling mind.

In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have been trusted with a knife, but there was no one home to stop me. My mom didn’t often buy avocados, but there were some on the counter so I went to work opening one because I didn’t have the energy for high effort foods. If I’d been eating under more clearheaded circumstances I would have taken better care with my grip on the avocado and the knife, but instead I held the avocado in my hand as I went in with the knife tip to try to excise the pit. The knife slipped against the surface of the pit and the very tip of it lodged itself in my left palm. “Oh,” I thought dimly, feeling a hollow sort of surprise, but no pain. I inspected the cut, which was small and barely bleeding. I awkwardly managed to keep the wound covered until it healed, which seemed to take a very long time, probably due to its hypermobile location. Over time it stopped being a story of depression gone dangerous and became merely a humorous cautionary tale, although even in the immediate aftermath I was putting a self-deprecating, minimizing spin on it, which I know because I tweeted about it.

The puncture was so small and so clean, as just the tip of the knife had entered. Somehow I stopped the momentum of my arm short of where the serrated part of the blade began. I can’t even tell you now exactly where it was, because it aligned nearly perfectly with one of the lines in the center of my palm. Any scar that may have existed has been long absorbed by the neighboring crease. I’m sure a palm reader would tell me there was some sort of symbolism in cutting whatever line I did, in overwriting it with something new. And besides, the lines in our hands can shift and change over time, so in a way these aren’t even the same hands that were injured five years ago. I am not the same girl who was hurt five years ago.

I’ve learned since then that I got incredibly lucky, that some people seriously damage tendons in their hand due to careless avocado handling. It hurt to have my heart broken, but I know now that I was lucky. Not because of anything about that relationship that has come to light since then, but because there is a certain kindness in cutting someone off when you know it isn’t going to work, as opposed to the torment of drawing out an unwanted situation.

That doesn’t mean I don’t turn it all over in my mind from time to time, hoping that I’ve properly learned how to tell when more subtle signs of rot are setting into a relationship so I’m not so blindsided next time. But admittedly I’ve never properly gotten the hang of choosing an avocado or knowing just the right moment to open it up and get at that green goodness.

I am a woman who looks for meaning in everything. But sometimes an avocado is just an avocado. Sometimes a man is just a man. And sometimes neither one will work out the way I want it to.

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