He swings Natália into the grocery cart and slips her toddler legs through the slots. Natália’s hands clap, legs dangle. As he pushes the cart, he notices the blur of flowers, the smudge of color on the periphery of his vision, and this time instead of stopping and smelling the carnations, he hurries to the fruit section. Last time he stopped to admire the flowers, Natália, delightful smile and eager palate, anxious to swallow the world whole, plucked and chewed the daisies bare.
He pauses, decides to buy the local apples, in season, heeding the environmental warnings. His family may complain at home, but he is taking the Greenpeace article to heart. For the first time, he understands, loud and clear, what they are saying. He promises his best efforts to heal the planet. He vows to read through every label. “Do you know how many miles tropical fruits travel to please our spoiled palates?” He had argued with his father earlier. Today is the day he implements his new shopping habits. Local apples, that’s it!
Can you believe what they do to bananas? The land, the poor land. The people, the poor people, paid miserable wages. Women giving birth to half-humans from the toxins and invisible poisons. Ashamed, he bites his lip. So long to hear their suffering. All that pain planted somewhere else, out of sight, and those cries of poison arriving from so far away they sound like a happy Chiquita banana commercial by the time he hears anything at all.
He promises his best efforts to heal the planet. He vows to read through every label.
He drops the apples into a reusable mesh bag he remembered to bring along. Natália lunges from her seat, grabs a bunch of bananas. Her fatherly instinct senses the movement and turns. Natália smiles, proud. A feat worth smiling about. Bananas are her favourite.
“Way to go, cheeky one.” He returns the smile.
He rescues the bananas before Natália bites into the skin.
“Oh . . . no, no, no. Not this time, sweetie. Look, an apple!”
He holds the fruit in front of his child’s eyes and pushes the cart away.
Natália cries. She ignores the dumb apple and twists in the cart without losing sight of what she must have.
Papa picks Natália up, brings the bundle of sobs to his chest and covers her in kisses, consoling. He tastes the salt, the pain. The crying gathers momentum with each step away from the bananas.
Cry. Cry. Cry.
Hug. Hug. Hug.
Other shoppers glare at his hopeless efforts to console. Bad. Bad father. Someone offers to buy the bananas if he cannot afford them. The child sobs. Natália’s heaving chest sends shock waves to his heart. He smells calendula in Natália’s hair, her breath, a sweet mixture of milk and innocence. He wonders what Mexican children smell like. Natália’s cries pierce his ears and drown out far away cries, anywhere in the world. He remembers Natália’s smile ten paces back. The most beautiful smile in the world.