Grapes

A bowl of grapes sits on the windowsill. Forgotten for days, a layer of dust clusters on the waxy skins of the grapes. Once, the skins were iridescent, their purple a pure Cadbury sheen, bunched behind plastic in the supermarket. A colour, indeed, that seemed a little unnatural.

Once, they had been swollen and fat grapes, ripe for the plucking. Grown, the label said, in the south of France, by a man named Giuseppe. Their colour was rich enough to drool over; the kind of colour that feels sickly in your mouth, too vivid for your vision.

Now the grapes had collapsed a little, their skins shrivelled like a blister popped by a pin. You could imagine the cellophane surface of those grapes: sinking, the juice inside slowly moulding. A clammy wine flavour caught in your throat. Earthy, somehow; but still so acid sweet, leaving that languid aftertaste.

They caught the sunlight that spilled in shafts through the kitchen window. Late February and the light was still winter white, making the grapes gleam a little. From a distance, if you saw the world in impressionist brushstrokes, they could be a collection of amethysts – dull, unpolished crystals. There was the black shadow between them that semi-precious gemstones have, a kind of darker, other self, that took the edge off their luminescence.

How lovely they are, somebody thinks as they enter the kitchen. How lovely and sad, these grapes that we have all forgotten about. These grapes that would quench nobody’s thirst or hunger. Their musk left a cloying, fruity aroma in the air, like red wine left out in the heat uncorked. In a way, they were disgusting. And yet there was a purity to them, a rot or sombreness personified in their fleshly pulp. It was, perhaps, the trueness of their purple.

by Maria Sledmere

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