All the talls in the office were standing around the water cooler, sharing some interestings. The smarts had a meeting with the leaders about the tidys cleaning the desks midday. The funny tall kept making jokes about the lonely stinky, and the talls all laughed because we’re also all observants. The lighthearteds played music while we all worked, and it’s sound was enriching behind the loud buzz of all we represented. The lazy switched the channel to see the beautiful breaking the news story. She handed the interested over to the serious, who was live at the scene. A white had shot a black in Missouri, and the black had died. And then we all looked around, and we weren’t so tall anymore. We weren’t interesting, smart, tidy, funny, observant, or serious. And we certainly weren’t live at the scene. We were just blacks and whites, trapped in a box, like so many crayons. And the music sounded flat, because that was all we heard. And our vibrant colors faded, because that was all we saw.
“What did I do, Mom? Just tell me! If I didn’t do anything, why are you acting like this?”
Mom looked up from the table. “Acting like what?”
I closed my eyes for a moment and failed at regaining my composure. “Nothing, Mom. It’s just that I thought all of this shit would stop once I got a mortgage of my own. I thought our family would sort of just grow out of this thing we’ve got going. I can’t fix a problem if I don’t know what it is.”
She glanced sideways, as though considering the consequences of speaking honestly. Her breaths drew more slowly. “I thought you were going to stop dating that Jewish girl.”
The room inflated and deflated synchronously, and I found myself chuckling at the impossibility of settling our differences.
We must be in more of this world. We must taste the Russian potatoes. Can’t you feel the Caribbean warmth on you back? Hear the calm static of the ocean? See the shore crashing violently against the waves? Can’t you taste the tahdig of Iran? Is it served with pears? Or is it eaten alone, with clean hands and dusty arms? Tell me, can you taste the sharp British yeast over the oily ink spotting your tongue? Japan will teach you to eat kudzu like a sweet bean sprout, but the American South will teach you that the east coast carpet tastes more like chemicals and pollution and (on the unluckiest of days) a hint of poison ivy. Is our fruit too plump and ripe to be held on the vine? Are these ever-expanding highways too vast for mere mapmakers? I tell you only once, fearful child: it is better to stand at the base of this fruit tree crying at the impossible choice and taste nothing but your own tears, than to step ever-further from the tree so as not to smell the rot of un-chosen fruit.
Funny how a man always has some secret childlike sliver,
no matter how grown, how wealthy, how serious.
He doesn’t clean his ears.
Then again, I am a young girl, too.
I am not polished or even, and my nails have dirt underneath.
(probably from cleaning his ears)
Always the footsteps down the hall
a forewarning mewl of her lover’s call
As the hallway light through the cracked door pours
on the creaking, glossy, wood-planked floors
The name spilling from her lips abhors
Then the quietness in the dark returns
Little lace duvet that has been down-turned
And the sleep comes, graciously, with ease
when it’s done, and he has been appeased
Yet we still hear God’s voice in night’s breeze
Most people save the best bite for last, but I’m an expert. I start with the least deserving bite and slowly whittle it down to the 1st class cake. If cake wants to survive a little longer around me, it has to earn the privilege. It’s just delicious. That’s why I started baking.
My boss was a different character entirely. Penney was a strict believer that strife encouraged bonding, so she was careful to never be fully-staffed. Someone got stuck in the snow? Your vacation just got cancelled, buddy. You should know better than to try to leave town. Summer? Flat tires from construction, overheating engines. Autumn? There’s so much work to go around that it’s exhausting even with all hands on deck. Winter? Snow. Ice. You know the drill with carrying mail in the winter, when the bitter rain freezes into your gloves and the only way to wiggle your fingers is to trade them out for the spare, soggy pair drooping on the defroster. And Spring? Well, spring can be really beautiful. You still have the flat tires, but not quite so many since the nails haven’t really built up numbers yet. Spring feels like the blossoming bud that it is. No one wants to leave town during spring.
Anyway, what was my point? Oh, yeah. Even when your boss barks like she’s still in the military, and you got a flat tire in the pouring rain, and your spare had an unnoticed leak that left you pounding a plug in the sweltering steam of a 100 degree summer thunderstorm, and your truck smells like rot from the years of moisture built-up driving through rain with your window down, and all your shoes have holes worn in them like you’re some rural drifter, and Marnie in Apartment 12B wants your boss to make sure you haven’t been stealing her therapeutic shoe catalogs, do you know what you should do?
Have a piece of cake; because even a life more abrasive than sandpaper is pretty damn beautiful.