HK Alphabet :: L

L :: lychee

Lychee is a fruit that comes into season in late spring/early summer, just when the rising heat and humidity makes its juicy sweetness so rewarding. With a rough brownish-reddish skin that conceals a translucent white flesh, eating lychee is a messy experience, one that is best fully attended to, preferably around a table after a meal. Part of what I love about it is that it is so demanding—you can't snack on it while knitting, say, or typing on the computer. You just have to set those tasks aside, no matter how enjoyable, and give yourself to the task of eating lychee.
Peel back the skin, trying not to think about that snake you saw on the path earlier in the day whose coloring matches the lychee's exactly—the snake who was either so busy or so invincible eating his mouse that even the barking dogs up ahead hadn't scared it away. Pop the whole golf-ball sized flesh into your mouth if you're brave like that snake and don't want to risk losing even a drop of juice, again not thinking about your toddler's newfound love for exploring the bushes and straying from the path. Or you use your fingers to break open the grape-like flesh and dig out the seed, letting juice run down your arms and all over the table before indulging in the seedless delicacy, and decide that hot weather (read: snake season) is better spent inside eating lychee than out on trails anyway. 

Lai chi is also, by the way, the name of the street where we now live, or perhaps it's the area or neighborhood. We can't quite tell. Our official address is on King's Road, but the actual building is on an alley one block over. A taxi driver told us in our first week here that we should say “lai chi” (pronounced the same as lychee, except that the emphasis goes on the first syllable instead of the second--I think. I still have been laughed at by at least one taxi driver for saying it—according to him--the same as the fruit) and then they would know where to bring us. It mostly works, except that they never seem quite ready to turn where they're supposed to, so I'm not sure if it really means what we think it does. We've heard that there used to be a famous nightclub back here called “lai chi”, and that's where the name came from. Our building is called Lai King, and the neighboring building is called Lai Wai, so there must be something to it. In the meantime, I keep saying “lai chi,” hoping to sound confident and keep the questioning, final, rising tone out of my voice, which (I think) is what causes it to sound like the fruit. And I've always made it home so far. 

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