I first became a hardened pomegranate thief when I was ten.
The superintendent lived across the street from our school. On the edge of his back yard, surrounded by a fence, was a lovely heavy-laden pomegranate tree. And, you know, it wasn’t like he was our English teacher or something. He couldn’t flunk us, right?
So during the summer, when the fruit was ripe, my friends and I would make a loose, clumsy tower of pre-adolescent bodies to steal them right from the tree.
We couldn’t wait to go home and properly soak the pomegranate so the seeds would separate from the inedible pulp, but scraped the scarlet beads out with our hands, bursting most of them and staining our fingers. We often could not stop at one and would return a few hours later for more. We got caught once, the squeak of the screen door heralding our doom. But we were fast, and took off in different directions. It was escape or death, because the evidence was undeniable.
Recently, my friend Anton held a reading for his latest screenplay, a suspense film bordering on horror, along the lines of The Orphanage. Pomegranate seeds played a big role in the movie, symbolic, frightening, blood-red, and sensual, all things the story conveys in its theme.
But everyone kept spitting the seeds OUT.
This was strange to me. You EAT the seeds. You don’t spit any part of them out.
Widipedia agreed with me, saying the seeds are ingested whole, but at the discussion after the reading, about half the group said they also spit out the seed pods after popping them for the juice.
It’s been a year since I ate a pomegranate, last season, but one of my neighbors has a tree in her yard. I stopped last summer to warn her I had a history of fruit thievery, and might purloin a pomegranate, and please not to shoot me out of the tree.
She said she’d try to remember me if she saw a figure outside her window.
And so this is how, three decades later, I again trespassed and stole, this time with the added fun of tree climbing at my advanced age, with no cohorts to give me a boost, trying to see if the pomegranates were indeed ripe right after Independence Day, as the script called for fireworks, and to determine if it made sense to spit out the seeds.
The lowest fruit was just out of my reach, so I had to grasp the spindly branches and heave myself up. I chose to do this near dusk, mosquitoes buzzing my head, in hopes no one would catch me. I finally grasped the yellow ball, even knowing from the color that it was all wrong.
And indeed, the fruit wasn’t quite ripe, bitter and hard to break, so I didn’t really get to test the seed theory. But I did covet my neighbor’s fruit, trespass on her property, and scale a tree just to answer a question. Because, you know, going to the grocery store would just be too easy.