All My Crackers are Broken

August 18, 2019

Pro Tip #1: If you are taken to the hospital with abdominal pain, vomiting, insomnia and crippling anxiety that’s lasted over a month, they will ask you if you are suicidal.

Pro Tip #2: Responding to said question with a snort-laugh and the remark, “Well, fuck. What do you think? Yeah…I mean, sometimes.” Is gonna get your ass thrown into the can for a week.

I deserved it.

I most definitely needed it.

Did I resent it?

Absolutely.

 

The can is no fun. Intake takes hours. When they finally let you go to your assigned room, after 6 hours in the ER and 4 hours in intake, it’s 3:30 in the morning. They confiscate everything you own (including hair ties, FFS) and you fall onto the bed fully clothed. You’re shaking, haven’t eaten since you don’t know when but you’d throw it up anyways. You take whatever pills they put in your hand.

You sleep through the entire first day and through the night, etherized.

You wake up with your head on a pillow so sad and deflated that you wonder how you slept on it. You think of your 80 year-old grandmother who told you, as a teenager, to always wear a bra because “if you don’t support the ladies, they’ll turn on you.” It feels like that. A surrendered breast.

You stay in bed as long as you can stand it, until you have to pee and you know you have to face this sometime. It’s freezing and you haven’t packed really anything, so a blanket will do.

 

This place is different from the last one. This place has wings. Wings for strictly addicts. Wings for PTSD. Wings for the determined and starving. I am in the suicidal/depressive/anxiety wing and it is small. There are about 12 of us. They don’t talk to me at first, when I lurch out of my room with a blanket. It’s not outright hostility, like at the last place, but I am eyed with suspicion. They give me a wide berth. I don’t blame them. You don’t want to engage without a litmus test. How do you rate on the Nutjob meter? They leave me be, but I get the feeling of being watched. I settle in a chair in the corner. I don’t even have a book to read, and it sucks.

 

The kid approaches me, all white teeth and emaciated body. He’s gorgeous. Or maybe it’s just the eyes, which are spooky seafoam green against his skin, which is tanned so deeply that he looks almost umber. He’s wearing red sweatpants that keep falling down and he tugs at them, trying to keep them in place.

“Well, I haven’t seen you here. Hey! Welcome! I’m Dallas.”* He has manic verve; he cannot keep still. He dances in place and snaps his fingers to some kind of groove in his head. “You look nice.”

Jesus, he’s just a kid. I mean, 16 if my radar is right. I am immediately charmed.

“Dana.” I extend my hand. He kisses it and then is off, dancing around the commons. He raids the snack station and comes back.

 

“This place isn’t really bad, for a Cracker Barrel,” he says, chomping into a beef stick.

I can’t help myself. “Um, you know what they put in those pork thing-a-ma-bob sticks, right?”

He grins. “I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me. All I know is that they.are.delicious.”

“Please don’t tell me you eat those all the time.”

“All the time here,” he says. “The Snack Fairy comes twice a day and brings awesome stuff.”

 

I wander up to the snack station and he’s not a liar, although I will never eat his favorite snack. There is an odd abundance of oranges. But there’s also cheese and crackers, which I think I might be able to hold in. I grab a fistful and am suddenly afraid that I’m going to lose it and I’m tired again and I need to get back, back to the dark and quiet of the room.

I make my apologies and he smiles in recognition. “Sweet dreams,” he says. “And believe me, you aren’t the most broken cracker in this barrel.”

 

*Names have been changed.

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The Thin Lizzy

July 27, 2019

“You know, I really should go home,” I say. “It’s almost 2, and I’m tired.”

“If you’re tired, you shouldn’t be driving,” he says. “I can take you.”

“You live way across town,” I remind him. “That’s stupid. I can be home in ten minutes.”

He flashes his white, wolfish grin. “You’re a total lightweight and you’re coming home with me. I have an excellent couch.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Jesus, you’re a difficult woman.” He skewers me with his eyes and his smile. “Just come on. Gary and I can drive you.”

“Gary.”

“Yeah, Gary.” He points in the general direction of a car.

“You named your car,” I say.

“Just look at him,” he gestures, “Isn’t he totally a Gary?”

“Ummm, maybe?” I laugh. “I thought all cars were female.”

“Female?”

“Yeah. Bertha, Dottie, Dixie, Daisy, Henrietta?” I give him the side eye. “Cars are always chicks.”

“Obviously not, because he’s Gary.” He opens the passenger door. “Get in.”

 

I lean back in the seat and close my eyes for a while.

He snaps a tape into the deck.

 

Guess who just got back today/Them wild-eyed boys that had been away/Haven’t changed that much today/But man, I think them are crazy…

 

“You know who this is, right?” he asks.

“No. No I don’t. I mean, I’ve obviously heard the song before…”

He looks at me like I have grown three heads. “Uh, Thin Lizzy?” he sneers. “Did you grow up in a barn?”

The air in the car has changed; it’s charged with something I can’t place my finger on but my instinct is to run.

I don’t.

“Just North Dakota,” I say, and press my face against the glass.

“Thin Lizzy is the best,” he says. “They are totally underrated. The guitarist? Gary Moore? One of the best motherfucking guitar players on the planet.” He gestures at the dashboard of the car. “Thus, Gary.”

“Aha!” I laugh. “That’s so cute. I get it now.”

He doesn’t like that I laughed.

He veers the car into a hard right and stops on the side of the road.

“You’re a bitch,” he hisses, pressing me into the side of the car. “Who do you think you are? Let’s see you laugh now.”

I don’t want his mouth but he smashes it into me anyways and he tastes like tequila and Camel Lights and when he shoves his hand up my shirt, grabbing viciously, I try to hit the lever on the car door but I’m squashed so hard against it that I can’t.

 

So I do the only thing I can think of.

I bite.

I sink my teeth between neck and shoulder and hang on like an animal. I bite until I feel blood and pieces of skin.

He hollers and lets up enough so I can get the door open.

I run.

 

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Usually, summer is my favorite time of year to cook. I get deliriously hungry just walking through the grocery store: plump, juicy cherries beckon. Ears of sweet corn whisper from the farmstand…eat me. Tomatoes–the ultimate winter bummer–are now worth eating. Berries taste like heaven and my garden is busting with fragrant plumes of basil, Thai basil, rosemary, mint, chives. High summer is the zenith of the good stuff. This is the time when I dog-ear a million recipes I cannot wait to try.

Usually.

This summer, I barely want to cook at all and even firing up the engine to head to the grocery store or farmer’s market seems like an impossible chore.

I hate it.

I hate my unmotivated, slack-arse attitude and this lingering cloud over my head and heart but. But.

I have to sit with it.

I know I do.

If I don’t sit with it, I just hide it and lie about it and avoid it until all the blood is sucked out.

 

It sucks feeling like roadkill in full summer.

This is how grim things are over here; last week, I had amazingly plush, misshapen Heirloom tomatoes and I could not even muster up the appetite to make myself The Perfect Tomato Sandwich. Not even with bacon. Not even with a ripe avocado and some butter lettuce. I almost called the paramedics because clearly, I am jacked up. This girl never, ever turns down a summer tomato sandwich. Especially when a good friend sends you some bootleg Duke’s mayonnaise, which is the only mayonnaise worth eating.

 

I am going to do better. I have to. Because if I let a summer go by without having any appetite for the things I wait all dang year for, what will I do in the winter? Squandering gifts is criminal. Even I, at my sulkiest, know that.

So today I hauled my older daughter–back from the Louisiana bayou (!!!) to Whole Foods and we spent over an hour in there. We talked about what we want to eat this week (lots of salads, after rich New Orleans food; ripe and sugary watermelon; portabello mushrooms grilled with buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto). We poked and prodded and sniffed the produce. We spent too much money, but we always do. The fact that she’s been away for several weeks and wanting to get back to the freshest, healthiest, home-cooked food makes me feel a little less grim. She’s my adventurous and curious eater, and she’s back. And she’s hungry.

She ate Indian aloo gobi (a cauliflower and potato curry) while she was away and loved it. She asked if I could re-create it and yes, I can. She also fell in love with Vietnamese food (can I get a howl and a YASSS) and I told her we could make that, too. If I get my mojo back. Maybe even half-mojo.

For now, it’s enough to assemble a caprese salad with farmstand tomatoes, basil from the garden, tart balsamic vinegar and lots of creamy, local cheese. It’s enough to scarf it down with our favorite Kalamata boule from WF and sop up the juices with every little crumb.

That simple lunch, eaten next to someone I love, made me feel better. I ate with an appetite I haven’t had in months. It felt good to be hungry. I know that a tomato sandwich-loving person is still inside me somewhere, even if she’s needed to hide for a while. Not everything in there’s dead and dry and husk-like.

For now, it’s enough.

 

 

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