It’s quarter to seven, I’m about to leave the office and I know there’s no one at home. I’ve shut a certain person out of my life, as I occasionally do, and everyone else is otherwise occupied or in California. There is no one for me to call. I feel glum and don’t want to be alone.
I have the impulse to blanket this Tuesday night melancholy in food. Doesn’t help that I am famished. Although I think it’s sort of offensive for someone like me to ever use the word famished. What I mean to say is: I left work wanting to indulge my body in whatever would make it feel good.
Complicating factor: I am breaking out in hives, all over, and for no apparent reason. Right now the worst of it is under my bra.
So I indulge. In Whole foods. First item: a carton of strawberries to eat with the remainder of the corn pancake batter that is in my fridge. Though I will make it into pancakes first, you understand. Also, lettuce because I have only just discovered the glory of balsamic vinegarette (I’m slow to catch on to trends) and now I crave it.
I am trying not to scratch myself inappropriately in public as I select the fixings for what I’ve decided I will eat for dinner: English muffins and two kinds of cheese—English muffin pizza. It is so hard because I am so itchy!
All-natural lime popsicles I take because they make my mouth water when I see them, and they remind me of the summer I lived in Shadyside with my first roommate, who came from a well-off Unitarian family and was the first person to introduce me to Whole Foods. My relationship with this roommate didn’t end well, but all these popsicles make me think of is how much I enjoyed when she brought them home.
I impulsively purchase all natural cheese crackers, because I don’t like to let myself have Cheez-its—hydrogenated fat, high fructose corn syrup, and all that jazz. Lastly, at the register, I put the Atlantic‘s summer fiction issue on the belt. I feel better than if I’d gotten Chinese takeout.
I was rejected from the Atlantic once—the first publication to which I’ve ever dared submit a piece of fiction. And a few months later, I received the neat little pre-printed rejection note on a small piece of beige paper with the addition: “Sorry,” and the initials of the fiction editor penned in purple ink. I don’t know that anything has given me more optimism about my prospects as a writer than the fact of that word, which he bothered to write by hand.
I walk home listening to an audiobook about China. I pause it as I pass the Asian Buddhist Alliance. (Or Asia Buddhist Alliance, depending which sign you read.) The side of the building is brightly painted with Buddhist murals, and there is a statue of slender Shakyamuni behind the closed gate in front. I hear monks chanting. I can’t tell if it is a recording being broadcast, but I hope that it isn’t. I hope that someone is really in there, sketching in the air with the smoke of burning incense while he prays.
The building is located behind the Sav-A-Lot food mart, where you have to check your bags with the security guard at the front. He tags them with clothespins and hands you a number written in Sharpie marker on a cutout of corrugated cardboard. There is a turnstile. It is the shadiest grocery store I have ever known.
I go through phases with my job. Sometimes it fills me so that I lack the room in my life to feel incomplete. At other times, it makes me feel rounded off. I imagine the smooth curve of an egg when I write that, rolling through a maze. It’s not that the egg cannot get to the end of the maze, but along the way there are many corners and crevices that it can’t fit into, and so it wobbles by them.
Tonight I am the egg, thinking about the (aborted, abused, never-begun) relationships and the unwritten stories lining my particular maze, that I tell myself I haven’t had time for. Though I have literature to comfort me, the buzz of the last Woodchuck out of my fridge, and the Benadryl that is filling my brain with cotton balls and gloriously relieving the itch.