Dispatch From The Mundane 005
Know my name and all of my hideous mistakes
In terms of pursuits in the humanities— I’ve been working on learning “Romanza” on the classical guitar. I’ve got too many unfinished books but the library just notified me that Sam Riviere’s Dead Souls arrived and I should pick it up soon. The book club for that already started but I will retrieve it if only to hold it in my purse and let it give weight to my commutes for a few weeks.
What was your favorite meal as a child? Was it a dish? A snack? Were things far and in-between that there wasn’t a difference between lunch and dinner. On instagram we talked (some of us deeply in direct messages) about the foods of youth, some of you simply responded and told me of your beloved dishes: kimchi, casseroles, grandma’s tacos, and gumbo. In discussingnostalgia it brings things closer like a rearview mirror and I have to take it in perspective: food is an act of love and an act of violence.
The rip of corn from the earth, the end of a life to feed another, the inability to access it and the commodification of the health of it. Food was abundant when it was there as a kid and other times it was a mirage revealing sand, the skull of a fox and cactus. I recall the cake walks and the famine in the same camera roll of memory. To engage these memories is to engage in all the failings of my life thus far, survival that evolved into incidental success if that is qualified by keeping my head about six feet and another two feet on asphalt.
There’s this thing in poetry for me where there are things that hurt to go near but I’ve learned to get close enough to feel like I’ve conquered it. I’ve gotten close enough to lie about it. It’s not that big. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen. It’s always been there but I columbus it and rename it in a Google doc. Like a circus performer I exercise and learn the differences in hurt, crave the bite of flame and tame the lion of it. When it comes to my biological mom, with family, with a memory of friends-- there’s me, there’s the leaving, and there’s how I barely feel like I ever existed before right now.
Hell, there was a time in my life where I thought I had made peace with what happened and then it hit one night as I miscarried a pregnancy I didn’t want from a night I wish never happened. I would never know peace and I hadn’t forgiven myself. I never forgave myself or my mom and all that I inherited and if anything there’s the fact that I don’t call her mom. I haven’t since I was seven years old but for the purposes of this, no, it’s more that I loathe revisionism.
All my life I’ve never tried to remake this dish from my childhood and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten it as an adult particularly because typical preparations include onions and if it’s the dish of my childhood and if we’re good and you’re my mom you know I hate onions and you love them. Depending on if it’s for me (sag) or if it’s for you (capricorn) then the presence is conditional. It’s not a dish actually. My favorite meal as a kid was when my mom would make egg salad sandwiches and I think it was tied with deviled eggs but I think the sandwich is so vivid in my memory.
Recall many times getting off the bus late at night and it’d drop us off in front of the liquor store and my mom would drag us in and we could pick the chips and more often than not they were cheddar fries. We’d hike up the hill and she’d boil the water and I’d bathe my sisters and I. Fold the outdoor clothes and the play clothes while she cooled the eggs under water. We’d come into the kitchen just in time to crush the eggs with a fork and she’d tell one of us to grab the miracle and the other to grab mustard. She’s cracking the jar of sweet relish.
Never in my life have I re-made this meal. I have never wanted it from anyone else and I thought I never wanted it again. I’ve spent a year thinking about it. I’ve been thinking about giving her a call. Calling my sister and asking to see her baby. I’ve been thinking about the fact I’ve got different kinfolk now. Back then her hands were already swelling with arthritis and she’d complain when home from rehab about doing our hair but do it anyway. There’s that thing about poetry.
Thought I was an argonaut. I got the girl and the fleece, I swear, I’m so good. I can make this sandwich without consequence. I swear it’ll be okay, it’ll be fine to simulate even if I don’t eat eggs. I had this plan of feeding the sandwiches to coworkers, to houseless neighbors but they never happened. I tried to crack the eggs after boiled last week and wanted to faint from the surge of hurt. I tried to buy sweet relish at the market and my hands were sweaty and I blamed my low funds at the check out and ran out of the store.
Yesterday I was listening to Julien Baker's “Rejoice” on repeat and that’s a song that reminds me of the only thing I enjoyed about church was singing. I didn’t like that to think of the hereafter meant I had to interact and mimic others unless it was the harmonizing of our voices into one, into the tower of Babel getting close. I like church when we went because my mom was trying again. I didn’t mind sitting and waiting for her in the empty pews and smelling cigarette smoke as she emerged with a coin in her hand. It happened sometimes. I wanted her to quit for me. I like Julien Baker’s crackling voice and it reminds of how I want to be better than the ways I am selfish and human. I listen to that song on days I want to remember I’m capable of love, of being loved and that redemption is a journey.
I can make this sandwich and no one has to get hurt but first I have to submit. I have to submit to the fact that I’m hungry for forgiveness and that I can’t keep living as if nothing has happened. I surrendered to the haunting. I laughed at it but I succumbed. I found myself unable to dress and the mess I made trying to assemble the sandwich made me realize the side-by-side comparison of hers vs mine wasn’t going to happen. I was supposed to see Julien Baker last night and couldn’t because I exhausted everything in me to get here. Listening to the song on repeat wouldn’t be the same live and it’sway she howls “hideous mistakes” and how it aches in me. Around midnight I howled to my friend Lish on the phone. I screamed “how come I can’t let go and how come I’m not someone worthy of grace?” She was asleep and I woke her up saying gently hello, love you, too, and goodnight.
I made the sandwich today. I was exhausted and my throat was weak from a day of talking. I knew the plan:
Tofu (keep moisture)
Mustard from 7/11 (at least one condiment had to be stolen)
Squished it and toasted the bread in a pan because I’m an adult now. The bread was Wonderbread in my day but this was a bakery’s sandwich bread. I sat quietly and said grace and I swear it sounded a lot like “Why did you let them leave and make me stay? Know my name and all of my hideous mistakes.”
Took a bite. The thing about my mom’s sandwich was that it was more relish than egg sometimes because we didn’t have enough to split four ways and a bit more mustard than that and she coated the bread with miracle. I got pretty close. I’m looking into the rearview mirror of nostalgia. I’m crying.
alone in my room is a once defunct and maybe weekly dispatch from the mundane from a local ficus. kelly is a writer, food himbo & serial hobbyist. you can support a hobby or buy soil for a plant here.