Lemons, Lemmings, and Love in Winnebago Country

“He has the social skills of a small lemon,” he says—at least, I think he says at the time. Actually I’ve misheard.
“He has the social skills of a small lemming,” is what he’s really said.

“Oh!” I say back. What can you really say, after all, to someone you think has just described another human being as a small oval-shaped yellow fruit? I picture the man whose social skills are akin to something that tastes nice sprinkled over hummus puckering his lips and crinkling his nose. His head his egg-shaped, pointed at the top like a Conehead, and his skin is rough and leathery, and thick.

(Well, it would have to be, wouldn’t it, to get through the day unscathed?)

Later, I will wonder: are small lemmings necessarily any less socially capable than their larger colleagues? Don’t they all just march along, without regard for future or past? But it’s the sort of thing you say when you don’t have all the time in the world to think it through, and in your head, you hear the voice of logic saying, “what could be more socially retarded than a runt lemming?”

A small lemon, apparently. And then I wonder: would a small lemon, as opposed perhaps to a large lemon, have some shame in not being as juicy, as fruitful as it could be? (Whereas a small lemming can be just as lemming-y as a large one.) And maybe this inferiority complex is what leads it to be so antisocial: that constant reminder of being less of a lemon is too much to bear. It becomes a hermit lemon: sulky, moody. Misanthropic.

(Only it can’t be misanthropic, can it, because it isn’t, as much as I may try to personify it on paper, human. It becomes the lemon equivalent of a misanthrope, anyway.)

The funny thing is, that a week later, I will remember thinking that he says, “the social skills of a small lemon”, and realizing after that he has actually said “lemming”, but I will not be able, for the life of me, to recall who has the social skills of a poorly sized fruit-or-silly-animal. It’s funny how things like that work; well, how memory works, anyway. Like a sieve: only it forgets to catch the relevant details and gets lemons and lemmings instead.

In the fruit bowl, there may or may not be blood oranges. We are not sure how to tell, without cutting them all open, but there’s something nice about not knowing what kind of orange you will get until you’ve begun to peel it. When I was a child I thought that blood oranges looked like I imagined pomegranates to be (I'd not yet seen one in the flesh): something approximately the color of a faded ruby inside, soggy and full of dark, running juices; and because in my mind pomegranates were always associated with poor Persephone, bound to Hades because of their seeds, so too did blood oranges begin to tie themselves to an ancient Greek myth.

Again, funny how memory, and connections, will play tricks on you. Here’s another one:

At the dinner table in QI a man tells his friend of a dream he has, to drive a Winnebago through the American countryside.

“I have such a fondness for the Winnebago,” he says. They commune over what seems to be a mutual affliction: love of one of the world’s most bizarre inventions. Then the other one sighs wistfully, starring into his cloudy glass of white wine, through the haze of golden liquid looking out over the warm wooden dining room while the towers of a dozen different Oxford colleges hang against the night sky behind him. They are caught up in the drama of another world: of driving an obscenely large vehicle through dusty country roads, past cornfields and IHOPS and Wal-Marts big enough to swallow entire towns whole; past crumbling barns, shiny new skyscrapers, under big skies on big roads in a big, big country.
“Ah. It really is Winnebago country,” one of them breathes happily.

And I think: when I was a little girl, my idea of the perfect possession was a motorhome, a Winnebago. I thought that having one’s home be so portable would just be right somehow; and being a child, I was too young to understand all of the cultural implications of motorhomes and trailerparks or the ennui of a life spent on the road. It had simply occurred to me, in a very basic way, that portability of home can be an asset to one’s own essential self.

So now I take books everywhere, and think that in some strange way that I can explain in words to no one (and how ironic is that!), this is almost the same as having a home on wheels. Words travel better than almost anything else I know.

And because it’s Valentine’s Day soon (or possibly already is), there’s one more thought that seems unconnected to everything else but important to say, and important to say now:

There’s a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately, because I heard it in a film and it caught my attention in that way that certain songs do—you think to yourself, in a theatre crowded full of people: this song was written for me! And part of it goes like this:

“If you were a wink, I’d be a nod; if you were a seed, well I’d be a pod. If you were the floor, I’d wanna be the rug; and if you were a kiss, I know I’d be a hug.”