It’s peach season. Every booth at the market has crates and crates of peaches. They are sorted and priced accordingly, from tart, firm ones for preserving, and drippy bruised ones for distilling into rakia. The ones that look best for eating right now are sold by a skinny teenager who doesn’t enunciate very clearly. I bend down between two older women and start filling a plastic bag. I pick slightly firmer ones for the bottom of the bag, calculating how long it will take me to eat three pounds of peaches, assuming I eat two a day. I fill the bag and start searching for the peach that will go on the very top, the peach I will eat right this moment, on my way home. It has to be perfectly ripe, so ripe that if I wait until tomorrow to eat it, it will be a bit too soft.
“What are you looking for?” the baba next to me asks as she fills her own bag. I forgot the word for ripe.
“Is this it?” Without looking at me she hands me as perfect a peach as I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s mostly red. It gives gently when I press it with my thumb.
Bulgarians are not always warm but they are consistently, unceremoniously helpful, especially to young foreign females. My American instinct is to smile like a maniac and thank them profusely, which makes them a little uncomfortable. So I suppress the urge to light up like Times Square.
“Yes. This is it.”
A deep, nearly dry canal runs through town from north to south. I take a bite as I cross the canal and peach juice drips down to my toes. So I stop and lean over the rail of the little pedestrian bridge to eat the fruit. Behind me and at each bridge people are ambling home in the sunshine, loaded with bags of produce, the cliffs crowding us on either side.