Chris McCandless and a juicy apple

My husband and I saw Into the Wild [read review by Roger Ebert] this weekend, the both uplifting and devastating story of Christopher McCandless, the young man who lived in the back country of Alaska near Denali National Park for 113 days or so before he died due to a couple of serious missteps. Both Catherine and Martha wrote about how the bus where Chris died is now a tourist destination.

Although I’ve felt the thrill of being off on my own, my drive to be so self-sufficient, so purist and off the grid has never been particularly strong. Still, I could relate to the movie on a thematic level of striving for authenticity–without so much force. On a small level, I understood one of Chris’s emotions exactly. It was the scene where he was eating an apple.

As he crunched bites of what might have been a Red Delicious or a Rome in bliss, he commented about how good the apple was–his voice making almost in an orgasmic groan. I’ve known such apples. Mine was yellow–not red. It was not so big either, but eating it was divine.

You see, apples don’t grow in The Gambia. And oh, how wonderful an apple tasted whenever I went to Banjul the capital stopping in a grocery store to buy the one apple, at the most, that I bought each month. Apples, imported from France, cost a fortune. I was in my cheap phase with my sights set on a vacation to Mali, so I saved money and coveted apples–holding out for a special occasion. The apple was it. My entertainment for the day.

At times, I’d buy two, taking one back to my village to uplift a difficult day. I would settle into my chair vowing to notice every bite–every bit of juice. I ate slowly and deliberately to make the experience last. Eating an apple became a gift to myself not to be squandered. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I made great vows to not become jaded by apple abundance once back in the U.S. My noble intentions have faded over the years. We currently have a whole bag of apples in our refrigerator in the fruit drawer, and there’s more where they came from–pounds, pounds and more pounds less than a mile away at the grocery store. Apples grow in Ohio. You can’t avoid them.

I do miss those moments when they tasted ever so sweet–like heaven. If I close my eyes and chew slowly, I almost remember.