victualsMay 6, 2007
I slammed my phone on the table and screamed at the innocent white walls. Every time I talk to him, every time, I tell myself. Even the shortest of conversations must be filled with some quip about how I’m not living up to a standard that he swears he doesn’t hold over me. Seething quietly through my eyes yet gawking in angst through my hands, I set myself to finish making dinner. I chopped onions with an alacrity that once had made my niece cry just from looking at me. My family often warned me not to be angry around the children. I scared them.
I dropped half an onion, now minced, into a skillet of hot EVOO, and my mind doubled back on myself. Why had he said those things? How could someone so genuinely friendly and not unintelligent say such callous things and not realize it? My eyes cut back to my clam-mouthed phone where I expected Kenneth would call back at any moment. Like an old nickelodeon projector, my brain clicked back and replayed the conversation.
“There are two kinds of people in this world. Victims and creators. Victims just wander the world feeling pity and disdain for everyone, not taking into full account the things they are responsible for—“
“Wait a minute. You’re calling me a victim now? I’m a victim?!”
“Hold on, I didn’t say that.”
“Yes you did, you just called me a victim!”
“Listen, Steven, let me explain—“
“No! You called me a victim, how dare you! You walk away from my life for three years, pop back up all of a sudden and expect to be able to place judgment on the shit I’ve gone through? I don’t even know what to say.”
“Let me explain, I said—“
“No, fuck you!” And I hung up the phone.
The conversation had been rotating around whether my dating standards where up to his par. Apparently, having two boyfriends that were met through online dating services was not only unacceptable, it didn’t count as a real relationship. Two very lasting, emotional relationships boiled down into a simple statement of non-significance from a man who had only played the role of occasional love-letter author during my high school and early college life.
The sizzle of vegetables popped my mind back to the present, and my hunger took over the major thought processes. I dropped a handful of basil in the onion and pepper mix, and stirred vigorously, scrapping the plastic spatula back and forth, occasionally reaching under the victuals to flip them over. The caramelized buttery scent punctuated with sharp acrid green wafted from the kitchen of my tiny one-bedroom.
Horns blasted outside my apartment, and my head snapped to the window, sheeted in horizontal dusty white blinds. I pulled them up and gazed down into the valley between the long alabaster building across the way and my own. The blue trim of the complex sloughed its vibrant glow once the sun went down, and now was a shady gray under the pallor of rotten-gold street-lamp light. The horns blasted again at the opposite building, where a small Hispanic girl emerged from under the blue-gray landing of the second floor. From behind my closed window I could hear with one ear the click of hollow wooden clogs crossing concrete over the rumble of the truck that summoned her; the crispy pop of my dinner filled the other ear. The silver light that reflected off the disc of her earrings caught my eye and I was reminded of the moon. Where was the moon tonight?
Normally, I have the habit of tracking the moon when I’m outside. I’ll stand around in the black and look from horizon to horizon until I can catch a glint of a crescent or even the halo or aura suggesting that it might be resting behind a building somewhere, stalking, waiting to ambush. Though the ambush never comes that way. The moon always seems to sink below the horizon again before it ever becomes the coin of the night sky, smiling or mocking from so far. Though I can’t harbor much indignation for the moon. It’s never wronged me. Sometimes the night finds me sad and I have to take myself outside and have a good “talking to” with the moon. She never really says anything back. Maybe I just like to hear myself talk. Maybe I just need to talk to the moon. So every now and again, I miss the moon, and I look for her. Sometimes, it draws me outdoors from the repose of my apartment. Not tonight, however.
Tonight, I sit and simmer over the conversations that I’ve had with Kenneth and wonder what made me take him as a friend to begin with. Perhaps it was that he was the only person who paid attention to me that summer after seventh grade. Maybe it was the common love we had for video games, cheesy anime and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Maybe it was the way he would stroke me when I was feeling lonely, excite me into a tween-age orgasm that was as close to heaven as anything I’d known at the time. Maybe that’s why I told him I loved him at first.
The vegetables, even over the stale brown rice I kept refrigerated and spooned out over several meals now, was a refreshing addition to a normally pale and drive-thru ridden palette. I tell myself I should cook like this more often, but even the thirty minutes that it takes to prepare stir-fried carrots and celery or a thick potato soup is not worth the effort. I would rather spend that time reading, playing a video game. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the meals enough to cook them more often. It’s that I’m too easily distracted.
I stuff my face at my normal pace and rinse my plate in the sink, already half-full from two previous meals. Those meals were satisfying in different ways. They were full meals. Meals that left no space in the stomach, though nutritiously unfulfilling. Pepperoni hot pockets, sugar-coated cereals (always two servings) and left over chicken fried steak from a restaurant I’d visited with friends almost a week ago. I eat these things, and my stomach expands to give enough room for digestion only, and I lurch backwards in whatever chair I can find, rubbing my slightly sore belly, now bloated just below the sternum. There is a peace in this gluttonous position, yet I still reprimand myself when I see my grocery bill.
The phone rings again. Of course, as only the fateful sense of timing my life can provide, it’s Kenneth. The amount of time between rings is longer than normal when your mind races to figure out what to say, how to say it, but indecision is far faster.
“Hello,” I settle for.
“I didn’t mean that. That’s not what I meant.” The words dove into my head, too fast to be insincere, yet not slow enough to be fully comprehended.
“Look, I’m trying to eat dinner,” I lied. “Say what you mean or leave me alone.” Digging the cooking spoon into the skillet, I push some remaining food into my mouth, hoping to keep my comments to myself long enough to let him explain. It’s the least I can do at this point.
The lack of a pause was startling. “I just mean that you have a lot of issues that need to be worked out, and I want to be there for you.”
I chew slowly, tasting the greenness again, fuller, richer, and thank myself for preparing such a meal. I don’t do this often enough. My life, as I’ve prepared it, has left me with little more to do than fill the hole in my mouth to sate the overt need. Nothing less than carnal, savage. The enjoyment comes in the heft of the after. But now, in this moment, I see what is really full. I see what being filled really is. I don’t have these moments of thankfulness often enough.
“Kenneth, I’m going to hang up now, because I want to eat dinner and not think about the horrible things you’re saying to me. Goodbye.”
Dipping into the shallow bottom of the non-stick cornucopia, I secure the remaining veggies in a plastic container for another day. It is possible that this is tomorrow’s lunch. However, these moments of light-hearted thought, or of what I should do, are fleeting. Perhaps I will have fried chicken nuggets, instead.