Eat

Aubergine

He was beginning to soften. I knew I was running out of time.

Story by Kirsten Anderson - superpupis@gmail.com Photos by Albert Nicolello
Photo © Albert Nicolello

Photo © Albert Nicolello

One summer day, about two years ago, I stopped at a grocery store, and as I was walking through the produce section, I came to a sudden stop; I felt like something had called out to me. I turned and saw a bin of eggplants. In the center of the jumble, one in particular looked—yes, looked—out at me. I picked it up. There was a small bump poking out from its center; it looked like a nose. I held it up to the light—with its stem and cap perched at a rakish angle, it looked for all the world like a jaunty, beret-wearing French artiste. Into my basket it went.

Photo © Albert Nicolello

Photo © Albert Nicolello

I named it Jean-Pierre. Then what? I certainly couldn’t cook it. Maybe I could preserve it somehow. I called my dad, who suggested that I get Jean-Pierre irradiated. Well, that sounded easy. Then he explained that this meant treating Jean-Pierre with radiation. I don’t have any kind of nuclear equipment in my apartment; Manhattan apartments are very small, so a superconductor is a bit of a luxury. The other option was the freezer, but then if I took him out, he would defrost into a mushy pulp. And what kind of life would Jean Pierre have in the freezer? The ice cube trays don’t have much to say, and it’s probably a good idea not to get too attached to any of the Ben & Jerry’s containers in there. Jean Pierre would be miserable.

Photo © Albert Nicolello

Photo © Albert Nicolello

Then, one day, I noticed some puckering in Jean-Pierre’s skin. I poked him, and the dent stayed. He was beginning to soften. I knew I was running out of time. I finally decided that all I could really do was just take a good picture of Jean-Pierre, and then let nature take its course.

Photo © Albert Nicolello

Photo © Albert Nicolello

I wondered where I should take the picture. My apartment doesn’t get much light, so that didn’t seem like the right place. The front steps? No, too much traffic. I obsessed about it, discussing all the different options, asking friends and co-workers. If you wanted to take a really good picture of an eggplant, where would you go? I found that most people hadn’t put a lot of thought into this kind of thing. Finally, I decided that I would take the picture in Central Park. Then the weather stopped cooperating. I waited through days of rain and clouds and began to despair—Jean-Pierre was beginning to age rapidly, and I didn’t know how much time we had left. I tried to think of appropriate indoor locations—could I get him into the Met?

Photo © Albert Nicolello

Photo © Albert Nicolello

Then the sun burst forth one day, and I knew this was my last best chance. I rushed out of work that afternoon, explaining to everyone that I had to get home so I could bring my eggplant to the park to take his portrait in the perfect summer late afternoon sun. I took Jean-Pierre out of the hanging basket in the kitchen and carefully placed him on the windowsill, where the one narrow beam of light that made it into my apartment would strike him in just the right way. I turned my back and, a second later, heard a gentle thump. I turned around slowly and looked at the sill. It was empty. Jean-Pierre was gone, out the fourth floor window, a victim of an uneven windowsill and a soft saggy body that didn’t balance as neatly as it had in those early days when I first had him with me.

Photo © Albert Nicolello

Photo © Albert Nicolello

I tried to look out the window, but the space was so narrow that I couldn’t get a good view of the alley below. The only people who went in there were the supers of the two buildings, and I couldn’t picture myself knocking on Mario’s door to ask him to let me into the alley so I could find my pet eggplant. Besides, I probably didn’t want to see him that way.

Photo © Albert Nicolello

Photo © Albert Nicolello

After all that planning, obsessing, and analyzing, I had lost Jean-Pierre, and now didn’t even have a picture to prove he had existed, or to remember him by. But I guess I don’t need it. I can close my eyes and see him right there, a deep purple slightly pear-shaped figure, with a sloping nose and cheery beret. How lucky I am to have known this remarkable vegetable, even for such a short time.

Photo © Albert Nicolello

Photo © Albert Nicolello

Au revoir, Jean-Pierre.

Photo © Albert Nicolello

Photo © Albert Nicolello

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