I am twenty years old, and living abroad for the first time. I am in Australia, on the Gold Coast, an engineering intern at a mining company. I’ve made it halfway through my college degree, and I feel free this summer in a way I haven’t before. There is no Facebook yet, Internet access is sparse, and I only call my family once that summer. My soon-to-finacé insists I call him more often. I feel smothered from two thousand miles away. This is a sign of things to come, a sign I don’t heed.
One afternoon a co-worker offers me a slice of pineapple. I demure. I do not like pineapple, I never have. It’s my little brother’s favorite, he should be here. The co-worker, charming me with his broad accent, insists I try. It’s just been picked, he says. He grew it himself. He cuts the rind at his desk, and the heady scent reaches my nose. I am polite, I try a bite.
I am overwhelmed. With awesome. I don’t remember exactly how many slices I greedily ate after that one bite, leaning over the rubbish bin so I don’t spill juice everywhere. My face is sticky, my tongue burns with the sweet tart fruit. Suddenly my brother’s obsession makes sense, but the canned fruit I’ve tried before is a pale, sad imitation of this ambrosia.
I return to the States at the end of summer to a new apartment, an anxiety-ridden final year of university, and a doomed engagement and marriage. I have no idea what’s on the horizon. I go back to school, and promise myself that I will seek out fresh pineapple whenever I can. Ten years later, I can still taste that first bite.