Monday, December 1, 2014

Currently Eating 12.1.14

Your Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner

Your Aunt Phyllis corners you immediately and asks if you remember the book she got you when you were twelve. You say yes. You can’t tell if she remembers making you cry last year. You mention a book you've heard about, hoping to impress, and she asks if you picked up the colonialist metaphors in chapter thirteen through sixteen. You say yes and compliment her close reading and sprint to the kitchen to get a drink, not because you need to or want to get drunk, but because you want to remind the adults that you are now in their domain. No one notices.

You find the cousin roughly your age taking selfies and talking on the phone. 

You find the other cousin roughly your age outside staring at his child.

One sibling says nothing to you. The other grins and rolls their eyes but also says nothing.

Your nieces and nephews pile on top of you.

One parent hugs you and pats your back. The other calls after dinner to ask how it was and to ask if you need money.

On your way to the kitchen, you realize that you still have to have dinner. It is here that a wave of exhaustion hits you. You say it is from the wine, but it is not. You mention how hungry you are to a brother-in-law and he agrees and the conversation drifts out to sea and you wait for a wave to take you all under or for the sweet surrender of cannibalism. 

Someone clinks a utensil against a glass. Here is the meal*:

Mashed Potatoes
Stuffing (Type A: It has pecans and walnuts and pecans and apples and dried cherries and gluten-free bread. No one will eat it.)
Stuffing (Type B: The regular kind of stuffing, made last minute "just in case." There will be no leftovers and, despite its mediocrity, this angers you.)
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cranberry Sauce
Green Beans

And for Dessert**:
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie
Pecan Pie

*the specifics do not matter here. What matters here is that you have eaten it before and will eat it again and you’re bored, though you will not admit that to yourself. And if the meal is new this year, if it is a break-the-mold Thanksgiving wherein each dish is new and exciting, you are inevitably disappointed to not have gotten the old standbys.

**each available a la mode, a la whipped cream, a la bloat, a la groan, a la jesus .

There is a mad dash to try everything, to cram everything you can into your mouth while simultaneously passing everything along and also saying how good everything is. The turkey is moist. The cranberry sauce is too strong, like jello on acid. It is all cold.

Each dish contains its ingredients and also an anecdote. The dog got into the stuffing, but you can barely taste it. Remember the gravy Uncle Paul screwed up a few years ago? Got this turkey for free, know a guy who works at Bi-Lo. And so on.

By the second dish, conversation around you has slowed, but this may be due to time actually slowing down. You breathe heavier. You sit heavier. The world spins heavier.

By the third dish, you no longer care about anything really, and so you swirl it all into a paste and slurp it up off your fork. You consider laying down in it, but decide against it. You consider drinking the last of the gravy out of the gravyboat, but decide against it, though it’s a harder decision this time. If there is no stuffing left, you begin taking loaves of white bread and shoving them in your mouth.

The kids table is already on their fourth plates.

The digestive fallout:
  • The turkey hits low, right in your gut.
  • The mashed potatoes line your esophagus, your stomach, and possibly your lungs, depending on how quickly you scarfed them.
  • The stuffing rises in your stomach, stopping just under your adam’s apple if you’re lucky. The onion fumes coming out of your mouth make you tear up.
  • The cloyingness of the cranberry sauce lingers at the back of your mouth and begins the sugar headache that dessert will capitalize on.
  • The sweet potato casserole ramps that up, and the marshmallows get stuck in your teeth.
  • The casseroles rise, the butter floating around the back of your mouth.
  • The gravy seeps into all of it, solidifying your body into a concrete mass of food.

Cleanup time. The wave of exhaustion hits you again, a nihilistic just-throw-out-the-goddam-dishes-it's-not-worth-getting-up bubbles out from your grease-stiffened joints. You say it is the tryptophan, but it is not.

You fumble with a few plates, praying that the bathroom opens up soon. Uncle RJ and a few cousins go outside for a smoke and you feel cold air knife through the swelter of the yellow heat of the kitchen and into your lungs and you wish you smoked.

And then desert arrives. You feel obligates to try each dish of course. You can no longer taste anything, nor can you remember chewing. You funnel spiced custard down your gullet into some land apart from your own. Coffee keeps your arms moving but they tremble at the elbows. Your chest hurts and you think of wires and bellows and springs.

In the rumpus room, Grandpa Albert eats the whole fruitcake by himself, lifting each slice to his mouth with a quavering hand. His lap is covered in crumbs and his face smiles benignly. You remember sledding with him. He does not.

You do not like football but you watch it with him anyway, because it’s easier than talking or moving to another chair, and because the swaths of field, be they green or white, soothe you. You don’t know why. You watch men in the peak of their physicality run into one another. It doesn’t seem that hard. You could probably do it to, if you could stand up right now, and if you had your inhaler.

A strange peace comes to you there, sitting on the floor next to his barcalounger. Everything is hushed, even things that are not. When you leave you say that you can’t wait for next year’s. And for some reason, you mean it.

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