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dark and anonymous
august 1, 2015
We have a large freezer bin out in our garage, the type that sits on the floor. Since we have three refrigerators, each with their own freezer sections, we really only use the bin for loaves of bread, rolls, pie shells, etc., and leftovers. Because the lid no longer closes properly, a lot of frost builds up inside. This morning, Mary and I feeling industrious, we got a rubber mallet and started smashing all the built-up frost and ice inside the bin. Stunned at just how much there was. I bent at the waist over the side of the bin, reaching down again and again, my joined gloved hands shoveling out scoop after scoop of the ice, throwing it over my shoulder. By the time we were finished, we had doubled the storage capacity of the bin. Mary and I grinned at each other, I turned around, pulling off my gloves, seeing all the mounds of frost and ice on the garage floor. It looked like a roomful of snowmen had thrown up.
I mentioned the leftovers we store in the bin. We put them in different-sized plastic containers, slap a white label on top with whatever is inside. "Chinese vegetables", "Beef stew", "Chicken and Sausage Gumbo", etc. But we found one plastic container that had apparently been in the bin for so long it had lost its white label.
That happens to you sometimes, right?
So we're looking at the see-through side of the container, trying to figure out what it is. And it's just dark and anonymous.
I peel off the plastic lid. Doesn't help that much. Except that I can see rotini pasta frozen in the mix. So, a casserole?
I'm intrigued. I heat it in the microwave, like using a time machine, not to where it's at serving temperature, but to where it's at least thawed enough to where I can try it cold. Tasting a forkful, I can tell that in addition to the rotini, it's got chopped-up sausages. Small sausages, like breakfast sausages. And some chopped-up chillies. Mary and I standing in our kitchen, trying another taste, serious looks on our faces.
"They're poblanos, aren't they? That fruitiness?"
Mary looks at me. Nods.
But we have no idea what it is, or when we made it. From the poblanos I assume it must be Mexican-based, but if so, I don't understand why there's pasta in it (most Mexican dishes don't include pasta). And breakfast sausages.
Back in the early 2000's, when I was writing my online diary Lately column on a weekly rather than a monthly basis, and I don't know how I ever managed that, I must have had so much more energy back then, a soccer player from some South American country (was it Peru?) emailed me to say that I was mentally ill because I wrote so much about myself. He even had the medical name of the ailment he thought I was suffering, and although I no longer recall the term, so much has occurred in the intervening years, I do remember Googling it at the time, and it was in fact an actual, diagnosed condition. Basically, someone who is extraordinarily self-absorbed, and believes everything about themselves is fascinating.
Which tied into another of his objections about my Lately columns, that so many of them covered fairly routine situations. Dealing with repairmen, clearing a new area of our backyard for a garden, reporting for jury duty, getting laid off at work, coming down with the flu, etc. But in fact that was always what I wanted my Latelys to be. For anyone who was interested, I wanted to show what my life was actually like. Unidealized. The occasional excitement of it, for good or bad, but mostly, quite frankly, the mundaneness of it. The little, quiet moments. (When I experimented with doing video diary entries, I devoted one to me taking out the garbage, and another to me cooking a meal.) I wanted to share who I actually am.
I wrote him back, pointing out that since Lately was an online diary there was a good chance there would in fact be a lot of myself in the entries, but he clearly would have none of it. I forgot about him, but then a few months later he was writing me again, complaining some more about my alleged mental illness. And after a year or so he returned with new email complaints, to the point where I began wondering about his own mental health.
He really hated what I do. But this is what I do.
I think Mary and I will probably remember this morning. It was a lot of fun, and it's something we did together.
Fifteen years ago, back in 2000, I wrote a series of pieces I called "Tiny Texts." Each text had to be one paragraph long, and in fact one long, continuous run-on sentence with no internal punctuations. Those are the rules I set for myself. I had a lot of fun creating them, because I had to juxtapose different images and actions into a single mosaic where it took time to tease out the meaning. One of my favorites, dealing with memory, was called "The smell of mcdonald's french fries in the bedroom where you died."