What They Ate, Where They Ate It
Instant Ralston in a cold kitchen, my father at the window, the smell of Aqua Velva mingling with the pulverized mush so it was all I knew of money, the two bowls sucked down—no spoon— over the sink. Dish towel tucked in his buttoned collar. This was work, his theory of work: he shaved and did not cut his throat. And then the one slice of American cheese between two pieces of Wonder bread, a staggering paucity of spirit he ate with a cup of coffee at his desk, the quarter inch thick piece of glass holding down the year, the schedules, the trim margins, with its transparent press. A receipt tucked in. A business card. While I spooned down glop in a lunch room cafeteria, the daily human oil like Vaseline in the mind. On the trays, the spoons, the knives. Or when I walked home, a fried egg sandwich at the drop-down table that folded like a bed. Cream of tomato soup. A split open column of crackers. Was my soul fed? Did the miracle of love stick to my ribs, half-breath in the aftermath of eating? The feel of 1962 still in my mouth. A bird feel. Dust feel. My spit clogged. And then later the majesty of the casserole. A can opened. The Spam diced. Cream of whatever vegetable smoothing the congealed mass. It had a crust like earth. It had edges. Weird volcano of my mother’s making. We prayed. We gnashed it down and swallowed, we coughed it up. At the good oak table formica-ed with a skim ice. At the chrome steel table painted the color of a One-A-Day vitamin.