Buddhists in the Kitchen

Day 1 of a 7 day self-imposed writing challenge to write about my day in less than a thousand words

On Father’s Day I woke up in gin. My fluids had a proof to them. I shuffled to the bathroom, to the coffee shop, to Target. Initially I was at Target to buy toilet paper, but then I had to poop so I pooped in the family restroom and didn’t buy toilet paper. The day didn’t get better at my parents’ house. My half sister was there whom I think of as my cousin half the time. I know her birthday and her birthstone. I think she smokes pot. I don’t know what she thinks of me, if anything at all. She brought her boyfriend of thirty years and we were supposed to have dessert but they hadn’t had dinner yet and neither had we. It was six p.m. Who planned this evening? It was determined that my sister and I would go pick up food, not as a forced bonding experience, but because we hadn’t been alone together since she babysat me that one time when I was three and she was twenty-eight. That’s how I ended up sending the text “Kill me. I’m at lobster but.” My iPhone didn’t recognize the restaurant voted Plymouth’s best seafood, couldn’t know about the long line of fathers waiting to place an order at the Lobster Hut counter, how the food came up on bright red trays and paper plates, with lobster salad so pink it was corny, french fries so pale and identical you thought of ethnic cleansing. And the people inside, well you know exactly what they looked like. The one exception was a younger man with grey hair who I doubt knew where he would be eating dinner when he put on his light blue shorts with the tiny dark blue lobsters all over them. Printed shorts on men are an automatic fuck you to the lower classes, but the joke was on him now as he was eating among them. I watched him retreat with his red plastic tray. Lobster Butt.

At home my sister and I laid out the onion rings, clam strips, fish and chips. We were given tartar sauce, but no ketchup.

“Could they get any cheaper?” My sister asked, as my mom took the Heinz from the fridge and shook it and turned it upside down and tapped it hard on its back like it was an infant choking. Nothing came out.

“Don’t worry about going out again,” my mom said, though I hadn’t entertained the idea at all. “I’ll ask Barb next door.”

A text was sent. The conversation turned to caterpillars. My sister hates them and this year she finally convinced her boyfriend to have the trees sprayed. By the look on her face, it was the best thing he’d done that decade. By the time the neighbor responded that she had ketchup, we were done with the fried portion of the meal, which was the entire portion of the meal save for coleslaw, those slivers of cabbage gasping for breath in a mayonnaise swamp.

“I guess I’ll just run over there,” my mother said.

“But everyone’s done eating,” I argued.

“It’s not worth having to explain the whole story to her.”

I blinked. “Couldn’t you just say we’re done eating?”

My mother shook her head and returned with a small Tupperware of ketchup, which I suppose will come in handy the next time we attend a BYOK cookout.

My contribution to the dessert spread was going to be whipped cream that I whisked by hand and served atop local organic strawberries, but everyone was so pleased with lobster but that I thought my efforts would be unappreciated. Also it was too much work to whisk it by hand so I poured the heavy whipping cream into the electric mixer where four minutes later it turned clumpy and yellow. When I am in the kitchen not a single food reaches its potential.

Over store bought pastries my sister’s boyfriend mentioned that my sister hides peppermint patties around the house.

“I love them,” she said, “And you ain’t getting any.”

Her tone wasn’t playful. You got the feeling that she would stow the mini Yorks in the litter box sooner than she would let Gordon have one.

“We have a candy bowl in the kitchen and they’re never in there. The only reason I knew she had them is one day I brought the groceries in.”

“Blehhhh,” my sister said and opened her mouth wide to show him the chewed up cake on her tongue. “Blehhhhhh,” she said again and he rolled his eyes as all childless couples do whenever their partner does something infantile that reminds them both how right they were not to have children.

By the time they left I was ready to join the compost bin along with the days scraps: egg shells and a moldy lemon. As I dumped them into the buggy contraption I thought that compostable items are the Buddhists of the kitchen, so smug about reincarnation, asking if that’s soil under your fingertips or a coffee ground. Trick question. We are all light.