Thursday, November 20, 2014
You study the November calendar that you carefully cut out from 12 Seasons Around the World and folded the edges perfectly to fit inside the black plastic picture frame. You recall that memory of killing your Uncle Jay with the spoon you pounded deep through his right eye that one Thanksgiving dinner, but you right the frame a bit to the left so that it’s straight. To be fair, that particular dinner would be difficult to forget irrespective of Uncle Jay’s death and the fact that you were only fourteen. That dinner was lovely. It was exquisite in every possible way.
You recall how the orange and brown fine china that your mother and Aunt May set out looked picture-perfect, as if right out of a Martha Stewart magazine. You admired the patience it took for the ladies to execute such precise beauty. Each placement had a small brown plate that sat centered onto a larger orange plate. Silverware, as in real-silver-ware, were set properly on top of embroidered yellow linen. Crystal wine glasses --Waterford, of course-- were readied to receive Cousin Jonathon’s finest red wine. Oh! And that turkey; the biggest turkey you had ever seen and ever will dominated the center of the table as if a throne. Two small-potted bright yellow mums your Grandma brought over flanked the turkey like sentinels, while six or eight side dishes --some prepared with care the night before—steaming from large brown or yellow bowls readied themselves for the feast, and… Exquisite.
You and your family were full of jokes and smiles and amazement as everyone took their seat. Boy, the heat from the kitchen sure made the room stuffy, but you took a couple of sips of the wine that your Uncle Jay poured for you with a wink and wiped the perspiration from your forehead as you closed your eyes for Grace. Uncle Jay and Aunt Mary – the “Fabulous Jay-Mary” as your stepdad always teased – sat on each side of you, and you remember Uncle Jay’s elbow pressed into your arm as you prayed. You just pulled your arm further into your body, felt the hair on your arm prick up. When you opened your eyes – yes, that is when you first noticed how superb the silverware and how magically it glistened under the crystal chandelier. You leaned over them and saw your reflection from different angles in each utensil. But the spoon was the most interesting. Unlike the knife and the fork, you could see your entire face and head inside the smooth, concave mirror – if upside down. The knife could only magnify your face; your nose was flat and wide, and your eyes stretched monstrously. You never thought yourself a pretty girl, yet in the spoon, your entire visage looked…normal. And the spoon; it held you like you were framed inside its world, safe within its borders, your gifts portrayed instead of…well, loose, you suppose, and distorted.
You start cutting out the month of December. You have the last frame readied for it. But, oh; you conjure at will how that moist turkey may have tasted on your tongue, imagine the steam shooting up from the gravy bowl; the gravy from turkey drippings and its peppery broth made thick by your stepdad’s slow stir over the low heat. Uncle Jay leaned over, whispered in your ear, his knee pressed into yours: The gravy is the best part, huh Sweetie? Can’t wait to get me some.
You pulled your knee away from his. Remember how you wiped his heat away with your fist? Though you hate peas, it was the first dish that Aunt Mary passed on to you. Of course, you did not have to eat them, but you reached out for them and spooned some out onto your large plate; the smaller plate having been taken by your mother for dessert. You passed the peas to Uncle Jay. He took it, but his thumb laid slightly over yours. You pulled your thumb out and wrapped it inside your napkin, as if treating a bleed. You saw how two peas rolled to the other end of your plate. You pinched them up and placed them on top of the pile of peas. Remember how frustrated you got when you knocked more peas across your plate when you nudged towards Aunt Mary? You quickly shoved them back against the pile and held your hand there until you were sure no more would roll.
You gave her wine? You remember your stepdad asking your Uncle Jay. He then returned to carving the turkey. Honey, he called out to you, hold up your plate. You quickly turned your plate around and held it up to receive the thick, white slice of turkey. If he only knew how often you were given wine. You felt ashamed, remember? But you know now, right? How you never wanted to drink it in the first place. You notice you left too much white around the black letters’ D and R of December.
You remember how the peas were helplessly strewn about and under the slice of turkey. You lifted up the turkey and tilted the heavy, orange plate so the peas would collect. You then slid the turkey up the side of the plate so that it did not touch the flat pile of peas.
Aunt Mary passed you the stuffing. You held up the bowl by the lip and carefully set two fluffy spoonfuls between the peas and the turkey; carefully placed so that the stuffing did not touch the turkey, so that the stuffing did not disturb the peas. That’s all you’re taking? Uncle Jay had asked. Can’t handle the stuffing? He whispered and then grinned.
You turned your head, hoping your hair would fall forward and cover your ear. Of course, your ear wasn’t burning, but you imagined it exposed and frostbit, or some sort of thing like that. You imagine too much, you know.
Aunt Mary then handed you a large bowl of mashed potatoes, of which she insisted Get yourself plenty, darling, before that garbage disposal sitting next to you gets in there. You do what you are told, but you noticed a fleck of potatoes flew into the peas as you tapped the spoon against the plate precisely opposite the stuffing, precisely between the peas and the turkey. You stared at the speck of potatoes on top of the peas. Mind if I have some, too, young woman? Your uncle woke you from your stare, but only momentarily. You handed him the bowl of mashed potatoes, but then you quickly removed the speck of potatoes from the peas, swiftly pulled out the peas that still had some potatoes on them and set them under the plate so you would not have to look at them.
Darling? Your Aunt Mary held out a pan of sweet potatoes. No. I’ll hold it. Just go on and get what you need. Jay, help her. No. I can do it, you insisted, and you practically stood up to hold the other end of the pan while scooping out a spoonful of sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are already sweet, but your mother cooked them in a buttery and brown sugary goo and then melted two layers of marshmallows on top. You always thought it was strange to sweeten sweet potatoes. But you were proud how you centered them onto your plate; how you managed to keep the sweet potatoes from touching the turkey, the peas, the stuffing, and the mashed potatoes.
You’ve got quite a masterpiece going on there, you heard your Uncle Jay declare. You know how to make everything good, he whispered into your burning ear.
You twirled your fork inside the orange pile. You watched how the marshmallow disappeared into the brown goo. You thought of nothing. You remember twirling your fork inside the potatoes; remember sliding your turkey a little further over to the side of the plate; remember feeling your hair stick to the side of your ear as if it were wet with saliva.
You set your December calendar down on the floor. You lay the scissors down across the week of December 15th. You look up at your wall of framed calendars aligned perfectly next to each other. You are grateful Joseph the new nurse slipped you a pair of children’s scissors, but you’d rather he go away and leave you alone for a few minutes. Remember when you watched the river of gravy pour over your plate and onto your mashed potatoes? Sure. They go together, right? It’s just that it wasn’t you pouring the gravy, right? You remember Uncle Jay holding the bowl up, and you remember what he said. He said it, like, out loud, too, but no one would know what he really meant. He said I’ve got your gravy, Honey.
You reached for the spoon. No, not like it was a weapon; not at first. You know why you wanted the spoon. Don’t you remember? You wanted to find yourself, of course. And you did. You found yourself alive in that silvery world. You found yourself kept. You realized how safe you felt inside the depths of its mirror. You discovered the warmth of its radiance as it swathed you in its utter loveliness. Silver. Like never before.
Besides, the way the gravy flooded over the sweet potatoes and into the peas was quite disturbing.