Everything is maybe okay, or will be

We live in glorious times. For example, two burritos can sleep quietly together in harmony.

It’s hard to tell from this photo, but one of these burritos is an American Democrat, and one is an American Republican. How peaceful they are! The fork is late capitalism.

I have another miracle to share, which is the empty fortune cookie wrapper I got. Not just a cookie with no fortune, but a sealed pouch of nothing! Well, air. But no future. No trips or strangers or business opportunities.

When I opened it, all of my problems rushed inside, like the opposite of Pandora’s box. Now, everything is fantastic.

It’s good that everything is fantastic, because one time in the semi-distant past, I had a rush of recognition that was almost like love at first sight, except I was reading something someone wrote, so I didn’t actually see anyone. It was from the London Times Literary Supplement personals section. The person described herself as being capable of setting fires with her premenstrual tension. And the chime of fellow-feeling was so pure that I thought we should marry. Except do I want to spend time with someone whose personal tension rivals mine and could be used in a destructive way in one’s home environment?

No. I would rather try to spend time with Natalie Jeremijenko or anyone involved in Project Drawdown or Color of Change. I experienced difficulty sitting through sections of Marc Maron’s stand-up routine last weekend, because pretty much all of his dank concerns are already — sorry, were already, before the fortune cookie miracle — manifest in everything from the tip of my tongue to my cuticles to my small intestine, and at this point my goal is to do be proactive in the face of the gathering dusk. And his point was that Americans are lazy and won’t do anything except avoid straws and adapt to fascism. Before Maron came on, a guy whose name I do not have handy (and that is good because I’m about to be unkind) also provoked a miserable gong of recognition. He could be the adult (he said he was 54) incarnation of every Boston-area a-hole adolescent I knew growing up. Some items in the word cloud for such a figure include perpetually bunched up, defensive, stingy, suspicious of the varieties of human experience, and cautiously somewhat hip but not like, actually experimentally hip. Possibly able to discuss brands of gear (snowboarding, surfing, biking, maybe), studious about maybe one or two local-ish bands that might involve ska. Very interested in the foreclosure of possibilities. Ready to miserably go eat a roast beef sandwich, perhaps. But also truly grateful for meaningful male friendships. So good for him. Also, part of his thing was funny, and maybe more was too, but the asshole alarm was going off in my head and so I probably didn’t hear all of it.

It is possible that the TLS personals writer didn’t exist, or was several people, or not a woman. That’s fine. I still appreciate the sentiment. Once while waiting to pick up my kid at school, an adult to whom I was introducing myself described their current life circumstances as a direct response to having had “a stressful decade.” That remains the most disarming conversation I have ever had with a parent with whom I was newly acquainted. Also, for someone who used to be overtaken by debilitating tension at times, I was sort of delighted, while also being saddened by, another adult’s description of the area from the neck to the mid-spine as “slowly hardening cement.” I got stuck on the idea of my upper back as being made of mahogany, for some reason (well, because it’s a hardwood), ages ago, but cement is a much better descriptor.

But after you get a fortune cookie wrapper that’s like a mystically empty Hot Pocket, and your troubles are whisked away, life is bitchin’. For example, whilst my cooking in the kitchen is ponderous and riddled with disasters, my cleaning is fairly efficient and generally not bad, though maybe not thorough enough. I often take two chef knives, one in each hand, from the drying rack and dry them by wiping them on my jeans as I stride purposefully to the knife block. You have to flip them to get each side dry and coated with the thin scrim of whatever bacteria is on my jeans, and sometimes it makes me feel like I’m in The Matrix. Not the burlap pre-orgy rave in the metal guts of Zion part of the matrix. The other part, with the fighting. Except as I type that I also imagine wearing the long oilcloth duster my sister had in the last century. Like the one Dennis Leary used to wear, except his might have been leather. So it gets less cool as I process it. It’s not cool. But it’s bitchin’.

Also bitchin’ is bearing witness to the creation of fruit soup, aka the lifecycle of an office event platter. It starts off as an array of rock-hard melon cubes on a table across from the bar, which is itself covered with bottles of wine that are draped in a red tablecloth. Because… no one will pay attention to the guest speaker if they are looking at wine? No one pays attention to the melon array before or after the speaker speaks. So then the melon array gets put in Tupperware and placed on top of the microwave, like so:

After two days, the melon box becomes a biosphere.

And then, after a weekend, the biosphere becomes fruit soup, from which I do think all sorts of life would spring forth if the staff member who is no-nonsense didn’t decide to dump it:

Creamy!

It is unappetizing, but not as unappetizing as some of the stories my children tell at dinner. In addition to extreme tales of elementary school mortification–like when one child’s classmate laughed, causing a booger to fly out of her nose, and then she gasped and inhaled the booger, and then threw up out of disgust right into her hair, which is long and creates two curtains around her face — they have stories about nature that seem like an affront to nature. For example, they watched a nature show where a pigeon landed on a riverbank AND THEN WAS EATEN BY A CATFISH! A bird, a bird that can soar the skies! With outstretched wings and then land easily on a branch or, more realistically, park statue! Was eaten! By a fish! That usually shuffles along a riverbed looking for detritus. Apparently the catfish “strand” themselves and then… lunge out of the water, grab a pigeon, and wriggle back into the water to swallow their prey. (Catfish are sometimes called “chuckleheads.” Chucklehead is also the name of a 90’s Boston-area band my a-hole archetype would have listened to.) I have also watched a lot of nature documentaries, and I know it’s a constant struggle out there, but that just seems like an incredibly degrading death. Not that pigeons are prideful. They seem down for anything.

Sea stars might be secretly prideful, even though they don’t have brains. Or they just have the remorseless confidence of a creature that can rip the shit out of everything it passes over. And then inject its stomach into the thing it wants to eat. And if it loses an arm, it just regenerates one.

Prawns, as it turns out, are less agro than but also the beneficiary of sea stars and their paths of destruction. They eat whatever has been ripped open and left for scavengers. Nevertheless, prawns experience great danger in tide pools at night. Over the course of the night, the oxygen depletes in the tide pool because the seaweed needs sunlight to generate oxygen. However! What do the prawns do? First, they become quiescent and lie on their sides. Then, they move to just below the water’s surface and use one of their weird little body parts (scaphognathite) to beat the water and cause air to bubble through it, re-oxygenating the water around them until the sun comes up. They can’t just emerge from the water because it throws off the pH balance in their blood. Which is to say, prawns might first want to be passive, but they’ll die, and then they may want to act like libertarians and just exit the whole shitshow, but they’ll die, so they work within the constraints at hand and save themselves.


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