I should have seen it coming. All of the signs were there. His preference for fruit over chocolate alone should have set off the warning signals in my head. It started out so innocently. “Come on,” he coaxed. “Let’s go pick some raspberries!” It sounded so romantic and fun. We strolled into Rock Creek Park and filled a silver bowl with a substantial amount of jewel-like berries that the birds and squirrels had not yet discovered (or did not want to risk feather or fur dipping into the thorny bushes to retrieve). “36 CFR §2.1 be damned!” we exclaimed. Was it the natural and unadulterated flavor that made the fruit taste so sweet or was it the fact that it was forbidden? Or was it the cup of sugar we mixed in with the berries to make our own homemade jam? Whatever the reason, that first batch of stolen raspberries was the gateway fruit.
A few years ago, TP discovered a fruiting fig tree in DC. At the time, it seemed as exotic and unbelievable as finding a polar bear on a deserted tropical island. He and his buddy, “Sars,” (this nickname was bestowed on said buddy pre-Sars, by the way. And yet, we never stopped calling him that in deference to the disease and would wonder at the odd and frightened looks we’d get when calling out for him in a crowded street. But that’s another story.) would eye it, monitor its progress, and when the fruit was ripe, surreptitiously spirit away as much as their little paws could carry. Since then, we’ve found many a stash (some on private property, some on federal property, some on the National Cathedral’s property) and we’ve conducted many a stealthy operation to purloin figs around the city. Eventually, we planted two fig trees in our own backyard but that did not stop him from a constant recon mission on any given outing to find and collect them.
On a trip to the French countryside during our honeymoon, TP was fairly vibrating at the sight of all the plump and juicy grapes we encountered. Some grew wild and some were tenderly cultivated but all had the same fate: a one way journey into his gaping maw. He grew more bold in the early morning hours as he made a cursory inspection for any witnesses before popping a few. His purple stained teeth and lips were as much at odds with his usual cantankerous demeanor as his radiant smile and satisfaction.
This weekend, however, TP went spiraling out of control. He not only pilfered pawpaws from a pawpaw tree growing in someone’s front yard in Dupont this morning (he had observed and took note of its location a few weeks ago and judged that today would be a fine day for ripe rather than raw pawpaws), but this afternoon, with deliberate forethought and a plastic bag normally kept handy for emergencies, he harvested an enormous amount of figs from a Silver Spring residence.
I ignored the signs until it was too late. Now, I have to come to terms with the fact that TP is beyond help, is caught in the grip of a powerful and unshakable urge, is a certifiable fruit thief. There is no 12 step program, no support group, no opportunity for recovery from recidivism. Consider this fair warning, all you “waterlemon” growing folk out there. You don’t know what you are in for.