Peach-free dessert – A Short Story from Uzbekistan
Mokhira Eshpulatova, a writer from the country known for its mosques, mausoleums and other sites linked to the Silk Road, the ancient trade route, shares a romantic story.
Love is important in a person’s physiological and psychological life.
By Mokhira Eshpulatova
Mohina was slowly going towards her favorite café being so busy with her own thoughts. The café was not far from the city center, it was quiet and cozy, and most importantly, it was the only place where you could be alone with yourself and your dreams. She often stayed here for a long time, running away from work and people. But this time the purpose of her visit was quite different. She was meeting her fiancé, who has been the subject of many conversations in her family for the past few months. She wasn’t so happy to come here although she chose this “dating” place herself. By the stone-paved hallway of the cafe, she came across with Diyorbek who was holding his mother’s hand and walking and jumping around the puddles. Diyorbek and Mohina were good friends although there was a big difference between their ages.
“Sister Mohi!” Cried Diyorbek with joy, “Sister Mohi, so glad to see you!”
Mohina greeted Diyorbek’s mother with a sincere, smile.
“I’m glad to see you, my little hero,” she said, pinching the boy’s face lightly.
“I’ve read the fairy tales you gave me,” said Diyorbek with a special pride.
“Oh, Diyorbek, how did you finish reading so fast?” Did you really read it by yourself, or are you cheating to get the binoculars I promised sooner? – She said, winking at the boy’s mother.
“I’m not, it’s true!” – Confidence shone in his eyes.
“Well, tell me, how many fairy tales are in that book?”
Diyorbek tried to count with his tiny fingers several times, his lips were whispering and remembering the names of the fairy tales.
“Sister Mohi, there were many.” I can’t tell for sure, because I didn’t count.
“I trust you, my little friend, their number doesn’t matter, actually.” So, do you like the fairy tales?
“You like them all?” But they all are so different.
“No, sister, all fairy tales end with saying ‘Happily ever after. So they are similar if we consider that they all have a happy end.
“Yes, you smart boy, yes,” she said, gently stroking the boy’s head. But that time she was thinking about something else.
Mohina said goodbye to Diyorbek and told him that she would bring the gift with her next time. “What a wonderful boy, I wish I had a son like him,” she thought and unintentionally smiled.
After walking for a while, Diyorbek turned at her and spoke.
“Sister Mohi, by the way, our cafe is closed today. Don’t lose your time”.
“Why?” Mohina was surprised, and at the same time she felt relieved
“Someone has booked the whole café for today,” added Diyorbek’s mother.
Mohina glanced at the cafe, thanked them, and continued on her way.
She arrived exactly 40 minutes late for the scheduled date. Jasur, stood in front of her as a symbol of respect. It was too difficult to guess his mood from his appearance
“Hello, good afternoon. I’m sorry I’m late …”
“I know,” he said coldly, “don’t try to explain, Mohina.” When a woman sits in front of a mirror, she doesn’t notice how much time has passed. Probably it’s because they don’t value their time and that’s why they don’t see the importance of the time for others too. What can I say, please sit down.
“How good, then, this foolish date will not last long. Appreciating this gentleman’s time, and admitting his guilt for this rudeness, I will say good bye and leave,” thought Mohina, sitting at a tastefully decorated table.
“You look very sensible and polite,” she said with a smile, “but you’re not right. I’m coming from work, and if even I was coming from home, I would not spend my time sitting in front of the mirror for the one who does not deserve.”
They looked at each other. Both of these looks had the same meaning: the score is 1 = 1. Jasur felt angry and called the waiter. A young man, who had been waiting for him, arrived quickly.
“Anyway, you women, are all same,” said Jasur, trying to be serious.
“If you think so, then why are you dating girls to choose one?”
“Because, sometimes I don’t like them, sometimes they don’t like me.”
This answer satisfied Mohina. She smiled thinking that today’s lunch would not be so boring.
“So, why “sometimes” girls don’t like you. You look like a good guy – she asked with a smile as she was looking through the menu which the waiter just brought.
“You don’t know me, don’t jump to conclusions,” he replied firmly.
Mohina was surprised seeing so many different meals in the menu. She never thought that she could find here so many kinds of servings. “What will we order?” she said.
“Anything you want,” he said, opening his arms wide
“There is nothing I want here” said Mohina, keeping her eyes on the menu
“Didn’t you want a prince on a white horse?” Jasur gave the girl a testy look
“I don’t eat cake.” I don’t like creamy things at all,” Mohina said, closing the menu.
Jasur suddenly burst out laughing. Mohina, realizing that the joke was deliberately aimed to bother her, she decided not to react.
“It’s becoming more and more pleasant to talk to you,” said Jasur
“For me too!” She replied as she looked around the café, which had changed completely.
“So men are just like sweets?”
“They are similar, they both cause addiction and harm for health. You better order something to eat for yourself because you will pay for it anyway. What am I saying, am I not exaggerating?” She thought. For some reason, Mohina felt very uncomfortable, and she was encouraged by only one thing – the carelessness and arrogance of the young man.
“Well, if you didn’t like anything here, I’ll take care of it myself. Well, we don’t want something too pricy, don’t we?
“Yes, but it should also be suitable to your reputation.”
“You are right,” Jasur approved her for the first time.
Waiter, who was waiting for the order, caught the girl’s attention.
“I’ve never seen you here before.” Have you recently started work?
“Yes,” he said, and quickly looked at Jasur as if he wanted to say, “What can I say to her?” The shrewd girl understood this.
“I want to recommend you something new,” said Jasur, trying to distract her. Mohina wanted to ask something else, but she stopped. Everything was as strange as the young man sitting in front of her.
“I am like a stranger who has never seen the food of the West which is proud of the high level of science and culture in the society nor the delicate food and sweets of the East. So I think the dessert will surprise you in particular. I discovered it for myself on one of my long trips. It looks and tastes like a peach, and it is named after the fruit. But the most interesting thing is that it is actually a peach-free dessert. So it can be eaten by people like you who are allergic to peaches.
A thought flashed through Mohina’s mind: “How did he know that?” The young waiter accepted the orders.
– I guess you have a problem with your nerves, – said Mohina, thinking of something else and trying to hide her feelings.
– I forgot that you had lectures on psychology at the University. Thank you for reminding me. Yes, I’m a little nervous, and it’s because of you, of course. But at least I can imagine how Kant * felt before he canceled his wedding.
– Why didn’t you do what he did? – She wanted to know the real purpose of the young man.
– I still want to do that. I think, I don’t need to remind you that this genius, who valued his time very much, left after waiting for the bride to come and told that precious words. He stopped and began tapping on the table with his fingers.
– Then why are we wasting our time? Tell what you want to tell.
– Why should we hurry? Anyway, I have no any chance to be a follower of the moral teachings that Kant created – he said, and thought as if he remembered something. Then quickly “woke up”
– What were we talking about? He said.
– About the peach – said Mohina, looking at him intently.
– Before that.
– I don’t remember.
– That’s the first point we have in common. I also don’t remember unnecessary things.
– This is a very useful habit.
– I don’t think you’ll remember me tomorrow.
– Let’s drink on the honor of our pleasant and useful habit of forgetting!
– I have no objection.
They quietly poured their glasses and drank the precious red wine. That “drink” was too much for Mohina. Her lips just slightly touched the glass.
– If I were a writer or a poet, – said Jasur, as he looked at the shine which was falling out the window into the wine in the glass, – I would say that I wish I were in the place of that wine and be drunk by the warmth of your lips. Even if you don’t like it.
– If I’m not mistaken, you are an economist. So, it would be better for you to talk about the price of this wine.
– God, what do you mean by saying, “If I’m not mistaken’?” After all, you know a lot about my profession, my job, my home. Isn’t that so? Don’t be so humble pretending you don’t have any knowledge of that!
– Yes, I’m partly aware of this, but not as completely as you say. But I can assure you that it doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is the personal qualities and outlook of my future spouse. And, of course, his attitude towards me.
“How would you feel if I openly expressed my feelings for you? “I know so much about you that you can’t even imagine,” Jasur thought as he stared into the girl’s blue eyes for the first time. “But… I don’t know how you would react to my childish cowardly, insanely stubborn and fiery love. I do not know! Mohina, if only you know that I fell in love with you at first sight… No! It’s good that you don’t know. After all, if women find out that you love them, they will start to look at you with the same arrogance that a commander looks at the castle he has conquered. On rare occasions, a lover’s sincere, pure, sincere expression is paid off. And I’m a risk taker, and my whole life, my whole business, is a risk, but I’m afraid to take the risk, to be honest. For a man, getting married can be the biggest mistake of his life or the right thing to do. Because after the wedding, women want to rule their husbands like their eldest son. Even if you are not yet married to her, you will have to run after her and endure her stupid desires and whims. Even if they are not good at other things, they are very smart at guessing such tricks. It all starts with the day you opened up your feelings in front of a woman. Yes, I know it, but… Oh God, how beautiful eyes…so deep and blue just like the ocean. I wanted to sink into this ocean as I saw her for the first time.
– You think, it doesn’t matter how rich I am? Nonsense! – He said, trying to gather his thoughts.
– Yes, – said Mohina calmly
– That’s good though
– It’s not up to you.
– Of course, but I’m rich and I’m meeting with you.
– You’ve mentioned your wealth a lot, and you’re obviously very proud of that.
– I’m not rich enough to be proud, but I have the wealth that I have never counted
– I thought that the job of economists is to count money and make everything into money. Don’t you calculate?
– You are right, but not fully. The reason I don’t calculate my money or wealth is that the day I find out their exact value, they start to lessen … You know, ma’am, love is just like that.
– How? She wondered.
– When we know the price of the abstract feeling of love, it loses its value. Something that is obvious isn’t interesting, and something that isn’t interesting is boring. The things which are surrounded by a mystery in the distance, are considered as valuable. That is why so many people deify love.
Mohina knows how important love is in a person’s physiological and psychological life. She is aware of many different conceptions, even some of them are contradictory to each other. But this is the first time she has come across with such a peculiar concept. Some of the guy’s words clarified the misunderstandings that Mohina had just been interested in.
“I’m amazed at your thoughts, just like the food you ordered.”
The girl just gestured to the antique dish that had just been delicately brought to the table and asked:
– What’s that?
– Roasted meat, he said, as if to say, “Don’t you know that?”
– I see that, what animal’s meat is it?
– No one but the cook can tell you exactly about it. But I ordered a pheasant’s meat. Aren’t you a vegetarian, by any chance?
– Of course not.
– Then help yourself. Pheasant meat is very tasty if you cook it with the right recipe. I usually go for hunting a pheasant and cook it myself. As someone who is aware of this skill, I can assess the mastery of the cook.
– You said you knew about hunting and cooking, didn’t you?
– Of course! My friends admit that I am a real marksman, but my cooking was a complete lie. I just cooked pheasant meat once in the woods. Just like primitive people.
– I don’t know how that peacock tasted, but this one is delicious. The taste is much better than it seems.
– Yes, exactly! You can’t say anything about food until you’ve eaten it.
– And, about people until you’ve lived together!
– Mohina, you know, people who have lived together for a lifetime still cannot understand each other.
– I don’t think so.
– What do you think?
– It is possible to get to know a person by his behavior, daily habits and words for a certain period of time. Science has already proven this.
– How long do you think it will take you to get to know me?”
Mohina looked him in the eye with a smile.
– One hour is enough, – she said laughing.
– Well, I was afraid that it would take more time.
– Why waste time researching and waiting when everything is so obvious?”
– What do you mean by that?
– I agree to marry you! – She said simply and clearly. Jasur was shocked as if he was right under the flash. And he lost his temper.
– Why are you answering so quickly? Maybe take a moment to think?
– I’ve thought for years, and now I can go into practice, she said with a smile.
– Then give me some time.
– Why, to suppress your excitement? – Mohina joked. However, Jasur was not able to understand this.
– To think.
“What?! Time to think?? What am I doing! After all, this is one of the happiest moments of my life. After all, this is the day I longed for, and I have been living in fear of rejection. If I break something right now or put things off, I will never be able to forgive myself. ”
“I think the 40 minutes you waited for me and those minutes were enough to think. But, I cannot do anything to make you rethink if you have changed your mind. So I’m ready to leave without waiting for the dessert you praised.”
Mohina stood up to get ready to leave, and Jasur got frightened seeing that.
– No, what do you say? I want you to marry me. I even want it very, very much. Words cannot describe how happy I am. It’s just that you rushed me out of this unexpected happiness.
– After all, all of your plans were made to hear my answer of “yes”, weren’t they? She said with a mysterious and seductive look.
– Did you know everything? (Did I make a mistake and let her know about my feelings?)
– Yes, from the very beginning. Peach-free desert has exposed you.
Jasur bowed his head a little, laughed, and leaned back in his chair.
– What can I do now? As you said, my plans are over, – he said, feeling relieved as if a mountain had fallen from his shoulders.
– Let’s start from the beginning.
– From where?
– From there, where I was going to tell you why I was late.
– I agree.
Mokhira Eshpulatova is an Uzbek writer. She was born in Khatirchi district of Navoiy region, Republic of Uzbekistan on October 25, 1995. She graduated from Navoiy Pedagogical University. By profession she is a teacher of Uzbek language and literature.
* Immanuel Kant (1724- 1804) was a German philosopher, one of the founders of German classical philosophy. He refused to marry his fiancée, who was late for his wedding.