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The other day, I opened a can of lychees, which are difficult to find in Ireland. I've never felt more like an immigrant than I did when the tin lid popped up and I saw the fruit, creamy and round, glowing like the moons that orbit someone’s wished-for home planet. In Japan, women free-dive for abalone, searching for the pearl in the slimy heart of this sea snail. Like a mermaid, I dove right in, into the depths of memory, fishing out each shining orb and slipping them into my mouth.

They were luscious and sweet, but not as perfumed as I remembered. Uncanned, the fruit retains its floral perfume. Mom would unzip them from their red scaly suits and drop them, one by one, into a bowl. Once in a while, she would pass me one, with glistening fingertips. Each yielded a seed like a dark eye. We’d eat them in the evening, watching TV. Mom was happiest when she was feeding us and we, her beneficiaries, were happiest when we were being fed. Lychees I associate with tenderness--for family, for diaspora, for the child I was.

Out of nostalgia, I watched a youtube video, narrated by a Cambodian American man and his younger brother, titled “How to eat a lychee fruit”. The scene looks like a childhood memory of mine: a closeup of a wooden surface spread with unpeeled lychees while brown hands migrate here and there, peeling fruit and chatting in Californian drawls. A TV runs in the background. One says, “Anyways, let’s open another one for mommy.”


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