a short collection of miscellany
I AM SHAKING / SHAKING HARDER THAN I HAVE BEFORE, HARDER THAN THE ROLLING STONES AGAINST MY BACK / AS THE GLARE FROM MY BROKEN WINDOW PIERCED MY VISION, A THOUSAND RABBITS GLARED BACK AT ME / THEY TOLD ME TO PREPARE, TO PREPARE MYSELF FOR THE LONGEST DREAM I’D EVER DREAM / AND I WAS, I WAS THERE AND FOREVER RUNNING THROUGH THE CITY LETTING THE THORNS OF THE IVY PUNCTURE MY SHINS /
LIKE THE WAY I HAD ALWAYS IMAGINED TEARING GOSSAMER THREAD / FEELING MY THROAT SO EXPOSED AND YOUNG AND BURNING / RED LIKE VALENCIA AND BLUE LIKE MAINE / SWEATING CITRUS FROM EVERY ORIFICE A REFUGEE FROM ETERNITY / SLICED SHADOWS AND THE ECHO OF NOTHING THAT COULD BRING GOD TO HIS KNEES / LIKE A SONNET OF FALLEN SAINTS
There are only two things I truly hate in the world: neoliberal capitalist societies and Doritos.
It was just past midnight and I was in the middle of lying face-down on the sidewalk when I felt someone touch my upper arm. I rolled over, ready to fight. But, then, I saw them. Watching me. Burning a hole through each of my retinas. Lusting for my soul.
“Is this what you do for fun?” I could hear the soft crunch of the half-eaten bag echo through the courtyard as the body next to me spoke. It slid down to meet me at ground level in supinated solidarity. “Sleep on the sidewalk?”
“Are those Doritos?”
“Do you want one?”
“Where are my pickles?”
“I literally hate pickles and refuse to have a purchase record of any dill product on my consumer report. Ever.”
“I’m sorry Carter. We can’t hang out anymore. I’m highly allergic to corn-based genetically modified cheese chips that start with the letter ‘D’ and end with ‘oritos.’”
“What kind of godforsaken monster are you?”
“The kind of monster that doesn’t like to eat anything that makes her excrement float nor turn the delightfully fluorescent color of early 2000s spray tan.”
The body next to me was quiet for a moment. “Sounds like you need Lactaid.”
“Lactaid, probiotics, cognitive behavioral psychoanalysis—it’s all the same.”
“If I were a doctor, I would prescribe you a six piece chicken nugget meal and tell you to call me in the morning if symptoms aren’t improving.”
There are few sensations like teaching in the world, and even fewer like the one of teaching someone how to climb. Everyone should take the opportunity to teach someone something at least once. Much like general retail jobs, teaching addresses several life skills: kindness, diligence, empathy for others. Teaching is a privilege.
To mix that act with climbing, one the most pure and three-dimensional forms of exercise in existence, is an experience unlike anything else. Watching Neo become more confident and laugh as he completed routes was really cool. I hope he enjoyed it, because climbing is one of my absolute favorite physical activities. I love how it’s a continuously fluctuating series of movements that drives the human body to learn muscle coordination and spatial orientation.
After we finished up, I walked with Neo back to Lamplighter to grab my bike and headed to a friend’s housewarming get-together. He told me to let him know when I was coming back and he would make me dinner.
Neo greeted me at the door, welcomed me into the kitchen, and started explaining the three dishes he had prepared for me. He had stir fried cannellini beans, cowpeas with star anise, and a mung bean and egg concoction.
“I don’t know why I made these. I just kind of stir fry things together. It’s nothing special.”
Neo is a liar.
The meal itself was impressive in its playful colors, textures, and tastes. It had enough spice to make it dynamic, but not overpowering, and each side created an intriguing and rewarding mouthful. Eating this dish inspired me to want to eat more intentionally and cook more experimentally. And, more importantly, it made me want to cook for others.
We talked a lot about Beijing and Richmond and their respective food cultures. Neo said he wanted to move to New York after graduation. He said he couldn’t imagine himself anywhere else, and I agree. With the quality of the work I’ve seen him create, I know he wouldn’t be challenged anywhere else. Neo is humble beyond words. If you met him on the street, you’d never know you were talking at one of the most talented and driven undergraduate designers I’ve ever met.
We discussed relationships, art, and our current frustrations. I hadn’t really had the chance to talk to Neo for an extended period of time, so it was fun to hear learn more about him and his personal life. I also really appreciated the effort he had made to fix me food and welcome me into his house, and definitely felt like we had made a deeper connection from the interaction’s proximity.
I knew we both had a bit of work to do, and I didn’t want to overstay, so I thanked him, and we hugged goodbye after playing with his cat, Belly.
I was tired, but restless. So, I biked all the way downtown. I reached the Pipeline overlook and watched the lights reflect against the loud and churning river. Neo had inspired me in several ways. Firstly and most obviously, he inspired me to change up my meal prep. But, he also made me think more about my design practice. As he talked about New York, I could see this yearning, a sort of ache within him to return—an ache for change and travel and newness and all things I had not yet experienced as someone who had lived in Richmond her entire life. It made me aware of my own stagnancy. I was so scared of change and leaving the comfort of Richmond and my family.
But as I slammed my legs against the bike pedals, racing through the empty streets, I realized that maybe I wasn’t so afraid after all.
I FOUND HIM SITTING UNDER THE OPEN SKY, CALLOUSED HANDS TO THE HEAVENS—HE WAS MOVING TO SAN ANTONIO IN FOUR MONTHS WITH HIS BRIGHT RED BIKE, THE ONE WITH THE RUSTED SEAT POST AND THE KINDA BENT FORK FROM HIS ACCIDENT BACK IN MARCH,
I TOLD HIM I WAS A FOOL / AND A COWARD / AND FALLING IN LOVE WAS ALMOST AS HARD AS FALLING ASLEEP TO THE SOUND OF A THOUSAND SCREAMING CICADAS, AND HE SAID I WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL FOOL HE’D EVER SEEN /
WE SAT THERE UNDER THE NIGHT / AND HE LET THE BLANKET SLIP THROUGH HIS DUSTY PALMS ONTO THE SHADOW OF MY BREATHING CORPSE, LETTING IT SETTLE THERE UNTIL THE SMOKE TRAILS TREMBLED IN THE EARLY HORIZON AND WE BURNED WITH THEM, PASSING GENTLY THROUGH THE CRACKS OF THE ATMOSPHERE