He only speaks in numbers. I hold up two fingers. He cranes his head up into the blaring afternoon sun and his head wobbles inside his oversized hat to acknowledge my request. We both know the deal. Two coconuts, tops cut off, nothing more. He ambles over to his low bench where he gently wobbles each coconut before he selects two to lop from the bunch. His tool is a long hooked shaped machete that that is stained with coconut sap. With a flick of the wrist two coconuts roll from their stalk down the bench. He saws the top off each one and drops them in a bag. “80”. I give him 100 and he gives me 20 back, shrugs his shoulders and gives me a half smile. This is our routine.
His business is coconuts and betel nut. His store is made of old bits of fence and scrap wood that he has made into a waist high bench for the betel nut and a knee high one for the coconuts. An old umbrella is lashed to one leg of the high bench to provide a small amount of protection from the Colombo heat.
I don’t know is name, where is from, how long his face has been turning to leather from hours in the sun, or where he gets his selection of caps from. I don’t know why he chooses the coconuts he does, or why one day he only charged me 70. All I know is this is one of my Colombo rituals that I love.