Carnival 2016 season has been good to Erphaan Alves.
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After an early-morning walk I stop at a roadside fruit stall, attracted by its diverse display of fruits and vegetables. Big yellow bananas hang in bunches. No one is around. I call out. No answer. A man jogging by says breathlessly, “Sometimes he’s across the road there.” I cross the road, not knowing what “he” looks like. I ask a man sitting on a railing if he knows where the fruit vendor is. He tells me to look for a man in a white vest.
There is no sign of such a man, but eventually one appears through the doorway of a building. Reading the question on my face, he motions to me to cross the road and we walk together to the stall. On a table, a Bible lies open at Ecclesiastes. Maybe he is someone who comes quietly in the morning, sets up for work, reads his “daily wisdom” and leaves the page open to remind him of the message. He does have an older, wise feel about him—observant eagle eyes and a silent presence. Up to now we haven’t said a word to each other.
As I reach for a bunch of hanging bananas, he tells me “Put it back,” and points to some loose bananas lying on the counter. They remind me of the Incredible Hulk—so large that the skins of some of them are splitting. “Them is $7 a pound,” he says, motioning his head toward the hanging bananas. And then to the big countertop ones: “And these is $5 a pound and they self ripe.” He informs me that those that remain on the bunch have been treated with chemicals and the self-ripe ones that are not on the bunch are chemical-free.
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