The Laws of Attraction
By Sofia Landi
When I talk about powers of attraction, you have no idea what I’m talking about, because, unless you experience the type of attractions I experienced, you probably think of attraction as something that happens between humans that like each other, whereas I am talking of a fatal attraction that ends my life as a fruit in a tree and starts a different one when banging the head of a long, curly, white-haired human male.
To tell you the story properly I must remind you how I came to this circumstance, a fruit of the domesticated tree Malues Domestica, one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits in the world, a fleshy fruit in which the ripened ovary and surrounding tissue are both chubby and edible. I am a cooking variety known as Flower of Kent, and I lived attached to my tree with my siblings at Woolsthorpe Manor, in sight of this young male’s bedroom window, since I can remember. I was a bloom on the tree for around four weeks, and I was so beautiful many bees came to visit me, I did not need to seek attraction from other entities such as the male in question or even, and this thought always terrified me, the ground. To make this point clear, I realize now that I have to explain a fact I have observed after paying careful attention to this human’s behavior.
Only matched by his fascination with a white round shape that shined on clear nights, the human seemed to have been enchanted by my tree. Whenever an apple would fall, I could see the human white curly-haired wig moving in frenzy, his eyes wide open, pupils contracted, a sharp focus that alternated between the tree and the fallen apple on the ground. A keen observer myself, I could almost tell what he was thinking about. What was this fatal attraction between us apples and the ground below us? Why should we always seek the ground in such a perpendicular and direct manner, why not going sideways, or upwards, having a playful time when falling? Assuredly the reason might be a strong power of attraction by the earth below us, a drawing power in the soil, focused somehow in the Earth’s center.
And when I speak of the fatal attraction between apples and Earth I don’t mean so much the process by which evolution shaped apple tree reproduction, the seeds in need of the earth, the earth becoming our destiny, because the trip to our destiny could be different, and this is something I could not understand even when I became an adult fruit, and I reached a pompous 10 cm diameter.
My fatal attraction started creeping slowly, right below my feet, when the young male started occupying the usually dull brownish floor below me. Maybe because of my own boredom, I remember playing in my mind with the idea of falling on the fluffy part of the wig, a much nicer feeling that hitting the ground in one sharp blow. As I started to ripen, I released ethylene, a hormone that changed starch to sugar from my core outwards, and at the same time also weakened the layer of cells at the end of my stem, slowly separating me from the tree.
The human below me had somehow become a friend, an accomplice, of the events that were about to happen, the only difference being that I was trying to avoid my destiny while he was trying to understand it. It is difficult to explain the hope that maybe we were wrong, that maybe I would have the chance to fall in a different way, and we were getting confused about who was attracting whom, was the Earth starting to draw me or was I drawing the Earth towards me?
I think I understood the answer to this and the other questions only when falling, when my velocity changed, at constant increments, as if the attraction was more and more powerful as I approached the Earth. As my speed increased, I could see the ground getting closer and closer, and began to understand everything that was happening, the reciprocity in the attraction, Earth and apple, apple and Earth, drawing towards each other. And I think the human also understood, because he turned his head in a very abrupt manner, putting his wig in the way of my perfect perpendicular trajectory towards the ground.
Occluded by one of the biggest curls of the wig, I could not see how the human reacted to my knock on his head. Everything that came afterwards is lost in memory, crushed like I was when the human stepped on me. Just a millisecond before that, I remember wondering if my observation was universal, if the same applies to other objects, such as that white round shape in the sky that the human kept staring at, night after night.
Sofia Landi is a postdoctoral associate in systems neuroscience at The Rockefeller University, where she studies the neurobiology of facial recognition in macaque monkeys.