The day was hot and still. I had escaped my apartment, walked over the road and found my favourite table free at the cafe. I ordered an iced coffee and was flicking through the Sunday papers when something snagged my attention.
On a bench in the park opposite the cafe there was an old man. In defiance of the weather, he wore long trousers, mismatched shoes, a grey stained shirt and an overcoat. An old hat finished the ensemble, jammed on his head at a raffish angle.
Beside him were his bags. They varied in shape and size from small grocery bags through to a large striped bag. All were bulging, some with contents peeping out the top. There he sat, amidst it all, holding an orange.
The trees in the park cast a dappled shade over the bench. The man sat in the gloom turning the orange around in his hands. My drink arrived and I took a couple of sips before pushing it away. The milk felt thick sliding down my throat.
With a thumbnail he gouged into the orange. I sniffed, hoping to catch the citrus zest on the air. He peeled the skin off in chunks, carefully laying the pieces beside him. The pith was next and luminous white sections were laid down beside the peel.
He paused, holding the peeled orange in both hands, inhaling deeply.
I watched as he placed his right thumb into the base of the orange, splitting it in half. He separated the segments, piling them into his lap.
As he placed the first segment into his mouth, I could nearly taste the sweet acidic tang, the explosion of juice as the segment split apart. His eyes were closed as he savoured the taste.
When the orange segments were eaten, he placed the pith and peel into a small green bag. I watched as he wiped his mouth on a tattered handkerchief. He cleaned his hands, folded it up and placed it back into the top pocket of his shirt.
He gathered his bags, then paused. Turning to me he bowed, raising his hat in salute, before walking slowly away.