A new lover flew into town recently, wanting to meet my old friends, so I planned a dinner party. Yellow mangoes were in season, and I suggested we garnish our salad with them. Mangoes do for salads what this man does for me: He adds a surprising sweetness to the bitter crunch of middle age.

I laid three mangoes on the counter like an ellipsis and retrieved my 27-year-old vegetable peeler. My beau offered to help peel, but only the one peeler, the old one, I told him, was up to the task. I’m actually not sure what to call this new man. Beau seems pretentious, but boyfriend seems wrong for a guy in his 50s. Plus he’s been around as a friend for nearly a decade. Not as long as my peeler, but long enough to count.

First he was my 12th friend on Facebook. Then he became my real friend, and eventually my writing partner. Between writing sessions, when we’d hike or eat, we became confidants. I was a year out of my marriage. His was in crisis. Do whatever you can to fix it, I warned: Divorce should be the solution of last resort. In the end, the last resort was his best option. Some things are simply not made to last. Most things, in fact.

The vegetable peeler, purchased at some household goods store near my former apartment in Paris, has never been sharpened, yet is as efficient as it was the day I bought it. Which, I’m not ashamed to admit, brings a tear to my eye. Not out of nostalgia or because I shared that Parisian apartment with the man who became my ex-husband, but because as hard as I try, I cannot think of a single other thing in my life that has remained as constant.

My Nikon FM2s, which survived wars all over the world—I was, for many years, a photojournalist—did not survive the transition to digital. The bloodstained vest I wore then gathers dust. My reporter’s notebooks are gone. The pens I used to write in them are out of ink, and my hope that such scribbles could counterbalance the world’s darkness is gone, too. I left my CDs at the Salvation Army when I moved into my so-called divorced-lady apartment. I still have some favorite books—but who has time to read, let alone reread?

Two of my three children have flown the coop, one to Thailand, the other to Chicago to study the neural pathways that might cause the sight of a vegetable peeler to elicit tears in her mother. The third—who’s just started asking how you know when you’re ready to kiss a girl—will soon have one foot out the door. I still have some of the same friends, but most are scattered across the globe; several have died. It’s been nine years since my father left this world, though I can picture his final breaths as though he took them five minutes ago. My mother can’t visit as much now that the hips that once held me are creaky.

My appendix was removed in 2006, my uterus in 2012, chunks of my breast in 2014, my cervix in 2017. Soon enough, all that’ll be left of me will be bone. Which reminds me: I must remember to leave the peeler, in my will, to one of the children. That it could keep peeling on and on into infinity gives me comfort. Or at least the delusion of control.

By the time you read this, my new beau and I may have fallen out of love, hurt each other, broken up, died. I’ve learned not to impose a sense of permanence on any relationship, however solid. As I sat peeling mangoes for our maiden meal as a public couple, I marked the moment to store in my memory, the closest thing any of us has to constancy.

I marveled at the mangoes' electric yellow, contemplated their journey from big bang to fruit. I took a bite, felt the squish of the flesh, the juice wetting my sleeve. I relished the taste, knowing that this fruit, like all fruits, serves a tiny purpose—be it feeding another living being or rotting on the vine to feed the soil—before vanishing from this earth forever.


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