The best way to look at the mango tree was from the bedroom balcony. From that spot she could see the leaves and the yellow moss-like flowers that seemed to adorn it almost like Christmas decorations, hanging down here and there at irregular intervals.
That was also her favorite reading spot, with the red canvas chair that could be lowered so that her back nestled comfortably and she could put her feet up on the concrete railing. In the evenings, when the leaves whispered invitingly, she used to sit there with a good book and let the breeze caress her tired body.
Late one night a big storm shook the mango tree, making it weep and bend until the branches got dangerously close to the window and she was afraid the rain would break it or lightning would strike it down but it never did and the tree always came through. Sometimes she touched the leaves, wanting to feel their smooth, thin surface under her fingers, to feel their texture. It felt good to do that, and the tree didn’t seem to mind.
In the cold season the tree started to drip, an invisible essence that made the front yard dales sticky and difficult to sweep. That was when the mangoes started to ripen and she would look up expectantly, hoping to see the tiny fruit that would grow to hang, plump and heavy and green and later on yellow, on the thin branches, making them beg under the weight. There weren’t that many fruits, and every year she hoped the tree would let her taste one and every year they fell before their time. She would find them, tiny and shriveled, in the high grass that grew at the tree’s feet, little hard pebbles just starting to curl in the shape of the mango they were supposed to grow into later. But they never did. Then Christmas would come and she would look up at the tree and at the other mango tree across the street who was bearing fruit, the green turning to yellow, ripe and ready, and she would sigh with sadness and say, maybe next year. Then one more year would pass, and then another and the mango tree did not bear one single fruit to ripeness.
One cool day, when the mango tree was all pretty with the tiny yellow flowers, the landlady came to cut the tree. She wanted to bury the small green island with the mango tree in the middle under a grave of concrete, that all-encompassing tomb which covers all trace of life. The woman pleaded, saying the house would not be the same without the tree and its shadow, and the landlady decided it was too much of a hassle anyway and gave in. And so the tree continued to live and breathe in the heavy air of the day and give a nice breeze in the evenings.
That year there seemed to be more birds in the mornings and a cooler breeze in the evenings. The tiny mangoes did not fall and she watched them with great expectation and joy. Not one fell before its time and there came one morning when the tree was heavy with fruit and she hoped to taste the rich sweet heavy flesh.
That night she dreamed she was in the mango tree and was picking the fruits one by one. There was nowhere to put them but none fell from her hands. It seemed like there were so many, as if an inexhaustible row of sweet smelling fruit was being pushed under her hands, just for her. She took one and bit into its soft flesh, her teeth sinking into the sweet, buttery fruit, the juice dripping on her right hand and down to her elbow. She felt somehow elated, like tasting a new and exotic fruit for the first time, and she kept eating until there wasn’t a single yellow fruit left. She woke up suddenly, the taste of anticipation in her mouth, and went to the doors leading to the balcony. Daylight was painting the sky a soft pink glow, and in the first few rays of the sun, she saw it nestled in the dry leaves on the ground, plump and big and yellow and she could feel the sweet taste in her mouth, left over from her feast the night before.