By Kelly Zanotti

April 27, 2020


Pedro is quiet as we walk, and is still quiet when we stop to rest on a rock where above us pawpaws hang overripe like clean green hearts.

I do my best to fill the space his silence makes, pointing to the lichen splattering the rocks. It’s a sign the air here is good.

He gives it a quick glance, says there’s not much of it; the air must not be that good.

"No como en mi pueblo." Then wrinkling his nose, "No crecen muchas frutas aquí, ¿verdad?"

I cite the pawpaw, and mulberries staining sidewalks for blocks. He tells me about mangoes and avocados in Mexico dropping at children’s feet like offerings to a king, fig trees rising twice as high as an oak.

You see, it’s been two decades since he left his small town in San Luis Potosí, and this Virginia mountain path we’re walking is nothing like home.

I pluck a pawpaw from the ground and extend it to him. Tell him it’s like chirimoya. But it’s not like chirimoya, and he smiles thinly. It is a smile that pities me, the strain I am making to bridge thousands of miles of distance.

It is a smile that says, There is so much you do not know.

But he makes a motion, then, reaching his hand toward the fruit. He places it on the pawpaw, and for a moment we are quiet together, the skins of two hands sharing the skin of this clean, green heart.


An MFA student at Hollins University, Kelly Zanotti lives and writes in Roanoke, Virginia. Her words have appeared in the Virginia Literary Review, the Hollins Critic, and elsewhere.


Image courtesy of Lynn Greyling via

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