In the letter you sent You tried to explain to me– I couldn’t understand. You Tried to condense Fifteen years of unspoken Words into A song you said I needed to know Why you floated– Why you made your Choices and broken Promises
This piece of prose is meant to serve a dual purpose: provide a life update and artistically reflect on 2020.
Have you heard of this thing? It’s called, “Slow Food.”
I shake my head. “Isn’t that cooking?”
“No, no. Not like that.” Judgmental tuts put me in my place.
People are always waiting to tell other people they’re breathing the wrong way because it isn’t the way they learned how to breathe.
I stare at my ceiling as my partner falls asleep. “Is my food meant to be causing constipation?” What is meant by slow? Sounds uncomfortable.
2020 distorts time like light passing through water and glass – the concentrated pockets brighten momentarily, but fade into the surrounding textures and patterns. I’m reminded of Bay Time – of a place in my past that no longer exists – when waking up during the blue hour meant a circuit of nets and crab pots, checking juvenile oyster baskets for conchs as they float tethered and returning by mid-morning on a clear day – when our family’s laughter sparkled off the water for hours as we chattered and picked steamed crab from exoskeletons. Hand-packed. Frozen. Thawed. Remembered.
Did I remember to respond to those emails last week? What about those interview questions I was going to write? What is Slow Food?
I create daily menus as my partner’s coworkers abandon ship for economic mirages. The grass is always greener… says the cow chewing cud.
What started as a chance to write 6 books turns into 6 unfinished books and 4 shelved ones. No one reads this. Why would anyone want to? Is there a world where my words matter?
“No, no. Not like that.” Say the rejections I receive.
I search for staff writing and editing positions at places that might acknowledge and apologize for microaggressions. Where I would feel safe bringing them up. I try to imagine a writing position where I could continue to find growth. I take two weeks off wondering if they’ve realized I’m the only staff editor they didn’t acknowledge the birthday of yet.
“No, no. Not like that.” Says the writing group I try out, but don’t feel comfortable going back to after the group leader says those that are talented at writing fiction are narcissists… after she compliments my ability to write fiction.
I read antique poetry books for inspiration and tell myself I’ll finish A Hundred Different Skies. I’ll finish at least one to be sure. But no one will read it. Why would they? Not even my family supports me anymore.
I stop getting on Twitter after our friend dies. He’s not the first death this year. My heart hurts. I’m told to take care of myself, but in isolation it’s not that simple. The words don’t come when I try to talk about the brick building on Poquoson Ave. I begin seriously considering mortuary school again.
“Have you tried Slow Food?”
“Isn’t that cooking?” I stare at these pages of unpolished text.
I lose a close friend to schizophrenia. She creates 15+ phone numbers and iMessage accounts to call and harass me about how I am the grey goo in her computer — about how I knew about the people living in her walls — about how the literary magazine I gave her in Summer 2018 predicted all of this. I try not to dwell on wedding pictures. My voicemail box fills regularly to the point my doctors can’t get ahold of me.
For the first summer since undergrad I lose count of the number of times I’ve been camping. This feels like the correct number of times. I start to wish I didn’t have to go home and find myself learning how to do seasonal prepping of food for the winter. I already knew.
“Have you tried Slow Food?”
“Isn’t that cooking?” My entire life has changed, but I haven’t found a new normal. Nothing is normal, and the only thing “slow” is Schrödinger’s Time in this box of a year trying to tell me everything is both fine and not fine at the same time.
But “No, no. Not like that,” says the world as it spins madly on.
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We walk through the side yard Cut along the back fence ravine Avoid the property line Wherever my sister goes I follow She knows how to play the way I do Unlike other kids (I keep making mistakes) We explore the dense poles Green stalks transporting us Foreign Land My sister teaches me friendship My sister teaches me That someone understands She shows me her treasures: Newly discovered places Secret grottos grown ups pass over We are the wealthiest kingdom I am a princess But she is a Queen