Dispatch From The Mundane 0010
a recipe for strawberry jam
Many years ago my friend M. asked me if I had ever listened to Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam on vinyl. I shook my head as I sat in front of the koi pond at our community college.
Earlier that morning everyone had been screaming because cranes were bombing the area, bursting forth from the water with a golden ticket flopping between their beak before you could ever process the descent. Someone said “It was so fucked up” and it was the rare rebuttal of the token vegan of our friend group to say it wasn’t right for us to butt our noses into nature, wasn’t it enough that our shitty campus was here where a forest could be.
M. invited me to their childhood home that was up for sale after our shared literature class. It was invitation into a part of their life that was gone. I never had a childhood home, no, not really. My dad’s house that was willed to me when he died was easily disputed because his name wasn’t on my birth certificate. My dad’s siblings who had watched him change my diapers decided they didn’t know me anymore when it came to owning a home in Washington, D.C. and I can’t really blame them. I learned in a foster home that I was nobody’s kid.
M. said that there wasn’t anyone home and it had a slight horror story vibe as we drove out to a part of the state that was more trees than houses. I wondered which of us will die first and perhaps this is the sorta movie that is more cerebral and we’ll both survive but we will have died on the inside. Maybe it’s one of those movies where we’ve always been dead and if anything we are apart of the haunting.
I can’t stop remembering the gaps in M.’s teeth as they said my name and asked how I felt about our reading assignment in class. My face was against the cold window pane and I recall the SAT word foliage coming to mind— the seasons change and my heart was pounding at the sight of golds and rust. I’m hot and bothered over a Bob Ross painting and it’s blurred in motion.
Sitting on a cold wooden floor M. scurries around the house and the only reason I know he’s still here is because of the sound of the old support beams aching. The ceilings are so tall and they make me think of those koi fish that grow to their environment. M. has long limbs and a swan-like neck and perhaps it was a product of these walls. M. returns with a record player. My dad had a record player and on Saturdays he’d wake us up for chores with Thriller blasting. As the frayed hems of M.’s pants sweep the floors of their house it felt kinda similar. Puts the needle to the groove and howls at me like I’m the moon “witness, the wonder.”
And an obsession with the past is like a dead fly
Only a few things are related to the "old times"
Then we did believe in magic and we did die
It's not my words that you should follow, it's your insides
You're just an inside
Lemur-eyed I’m staring at them with my mouth open and sitting on my calves and watching their long limbs bend and twirl in the center of an old dining room and they begin to sway. I feel conjured as I rise from my knees.
M.’s arms are as long as albatross and they seem to flap and I feel off tilt as I watch them wrap around their slight frame. They’re holding themselves and whispering “for Reverend, for Reverend.” I’m hungry. I’m scared. There’s a shadow casted by the old trees. I’m a city kid. I’m used to the shadows casted by my toys when the high beams from cars past. I’m used the confetti of sirens and the streetlamp gymnastics of fluorescence cartwheeling into my room coloring the pitch of night sepia.
We dance in the house until dripping sweat on the cold wood.
My throat hurts and my skin is rough with gooseflesh and I’m cold. I’m staring into their eyes and it’s not really romantic but it’s intimate. We are panting and I say “I want to scream” and he says “then scream! Remember! It’s okay to be inhumane.”
So I screamed.
My tears quench five feet of lawn
And I just creep I cannot yawn
And people gonna come and people gonna cry
He just woke and dreamt and ate and died
Don't try to erase what you have done
Put your fingers in a mouth, and kiss it if it wants
And where's my friend, I wanna hold him tight
He's so far away from mountain lights
We performed the whole album and it was evening by the time M. took me home. I felt so hollow and holy. My skin throbbed. Years later I would feel this same feeling standing in a living room of a house monikered “Tribal House” reading poems. I felt ill and yet enlivened to be under such scrutiny. My voice grew louder as I read and I was so focused that my own shadow would’ve startled me from the spot I was perched on. I thought of the time when I believed in magic, of wanting to be screamed into existence.
Think that’s one of the times I first fell in love. In love with the car crash of our voices and the surrender of flesh when it’s been seduced into motion. I imagine a puppeteer in the sky all deus ex machina and willing me from my knees to my hands in the sky and I’m exhaling and I can see my breathe in the air. It’s dusk. It’s getting colder. There’s no heat in the house anymore. No one will live here ever again and that’s memory for you. I can replay it all the times I want and no matter how the details change, I’ll never live it again. Not in this life anyway.
It was a love that I didn’t mean to happen but I was glad I got to know it existed. I’d survived unwanted hands and had no interest in anything that needed the seal of saliva to feel real. M. held my hand as we electrified ourselves to the blast of music from an old record player and we’d never be closer than we were that day. M. would move away.
Didn’t know that I’d move to Baltimore back then but one day I did. I sent M. a message saying I saw Beach House and I think M. was somewhere on a mountain in Nepal and they said “cool.” M. moved back from Berlin many years later and said they’re just driving through and wanted to see me.
Came to my basement flat and said “well, shit you’ve changed” and I wanted to say that I was now foliage but the truth is I hadn’t changed as beautifully as nature presents it. We smoked cigarettes in the yard next to the bitter melons in the garden and sipped National Bohemians. I said “I gotta play you a song, these guys, they’re so good.”
I wish I could remember the song now because M.’s body began to convulse. I want to listen to it on repeat.
I've been eating with a good friend who said
"A Genii made me out of the earth's skin
If you’ve never listened to Strawberry Jam…perhaps enjoy it with a thick slice of warmly toasted pumpernickel, the robust taste of caraway seeds mixing with the spiced berries and getting stuck in your teeth.
16 oz. fresh strawberries, cut the stems.
juice of ½ of a lemon + zest
3 tablespoons of chia seeds
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons of coconut sugar
Optional: Use a chili to taste (choose your adventure / dried or fresh. I used a few slices of habanero.)
I cook the strawberries down with the sugar, molasses, juice and slices of chili. I like a chunkier produce so I do not mash or blend til smooth but you could if you wanted a smoother product. Remove from stove. I let it cool and add the lemon zest and chia seeds. Taste and add more sugar to taste. I let it chill and thicken in the fridge.
Maybe you’ll want a little loaf to put this on. Here’s a pumpernickel recipe. I thought I’d give you mine but I’ll admit that I was deep in describing Jung’s theory of the unconscious self and the ego and trying to tell you how sticky rye becomes when wet when I thought it’d be best that I link you to an expert. It won’t be a masterclass in brevity but it certainly won’t find you unwinding your personality with a vegetable peeler when you should be baking bread.
This steakhouse recipe is quite close to the recipe I use and the bread that I want you to try. It’s not a sourdough. You could make a sourdough. You could put your back into it. It’s the cocoa and molasses for me. It’s the warmth of bread fresh out of the oven. There’s a little sweat in making bread. There’s piety in that I will rise a little earlier to surprise myself later with a loaf of bread and some spicy jam.
Alone in my room just breaking bread and I think there’s something in the salt of my hands that imparts on the loaf. It’s flaky and coarse. I roll it around my tongue. Yes, I think it’s okay to feel inhumane now. It says yes, it’s going to be okay, forgive yourself. To get over anything that has ever happened to you means that you’ve ascended and in some way that makes us heavenly. We are created in the image of a God that doesn’t forgive unless you ask. We have to ask to forgive ourselves on Earth.
Grace is so inhumane but I’m ready to ascend. So I take a bite.
alone in my room is a once defunct and maybe weekly dispatch from the mundane from a local ficus. kelly is a writer & serial hobbyist. there are two episodes of alone in my room on soundcloud. you can donate to support a hobby or buy soil here.