Julian and I liked to pick apples out in the orchard. Mom always told us not to, said to let the workers do it. But we liked climbing the trees and being rewarded with a satisfying, crisp bite.
There was one day when we climbed up too high, though. And it was getting dark. We couldn’t see the way back down – which branch to step on, which route to take that would lead our feet back to the ground. But we didn’t mind. From the highest branches, we could see out across the orchard. It spread out, in the endless way that things seem to do when you’re that age. A fat moon was perched at the opposite end of the grove, brushing all the treetops with a silver glow as the cold wind set their leaves to rustling.
We picked apples from the branches of our tree and let our tongues collide with their flavor, somehow different at night. They were infused with moonlight, tasting of cool fall nights and the sweetest parts of childhood. We stayed there until dawn, filling ourselves with those extraordinary apples and the soft night air.
A few years later, when Julian was a teenager and I not far behind, we climbed the tree at dark again, under a full moon. But after that first crunch, we knew something wasn’t the same. The apples were fine. Ordinary. Maybe a bit chilly on our gums due to the evening temperature; but otherwise they were unremarkable. Empty of that peculiar, haunting taste.
We still try, whenever we’re back home to visit Mom. We pretend we don’t know what is missing, and go out in search of the same tree. The same sweetness. But nothing has ever come close.