I don’t know what kind of dreams a McBurger would inspire. I don’t know what it feels like to wait in a line in my car to order my dinner from a window behind which an adenoidal teen writes barely coherent notes. Would it sound like music? Would it make me feel the wheat shaft brush against my shin as the dry shushing of the grass talks to the fall wind?
When I was five, one of the few memories I have that clings to the skin of my life is of eating a beet straight from my mother’s garden, covered in a sheen of thin soil and tasting like more than a Russian joke of body odor. I ate it like it was candy. I was probably as dirty as the beet. Dirty fucking hippie kid. Another early memory is of eating an onion raw in front of a baby sitter who looked at me with the same look everyone reserves for carnies; mixed awe and horror. I ate an onion like it was an apple. I was somewhere between five and six years old. I only know this because we’d left the commune but we still lived a few doors down from the house that caught fire.
I have few early memories. These are potent earthy markers.
What if every memory was suspended from the pollution of other people’s memories? Would they be more corrupt or more pure?
I don’t know. I have so few answers. There are so many questions they crawl up the walls to the ceiling while I dream of human-consuming worms, house fires lapping up baby dolls with revolving faces in dark play attics, the great tundra of the school grounds across the street whose bushes hid the answers to life in pulpy copies of Playboy and Playgirl, the darker meanings lost on us children. The presence of evil felt but never expressed. Wonder and eyes glued to inconceivable contortions of the life we thought was real.
Snails and salt. Vacancy. Sometimes the horror of what we found in the bushes was more bearable than the horror in our own homes. Sometimes the bushes were the safest place to wait for life to evolve, to take us into the future where something was more possible than nothing.
Life is nothing but blood and more blood. How much you pump, how much you consume, how much you need, how much you’ll lose, and how much you’ll share. It’s life. It’s the visceral manifestation of your soul, however you like to lay that out: on bible pages mod-podged to your forehead or pinned to a frame like dead butterflies caught mid-flight and pickled by formaldehyde and ozone. Life is nothing more than skin and blood and I’ve spilled my share.
Our lives can be measured by how much blood we have to make, how much we have to lose, and how cut up we are in the process of dying before death. It’s one long continuum of beating veins and active arteries. I feel the pressure of it in my temple, pulsing like a light tribal drumbeat; I want you to walk away now. Leave this livid pallor to the rest of us.
None of it matters much if you find your way back to the dirt. To the beets with the bloom of soil on the surface your teeth grind past and forgive for the sweet-sick taste of bloody earth. It bleeds all over your fingers and your mouth like a plague of love as frightening as locusts. You will remember past the Peter Gabriel nightmare in the attic because what shines is this other remembrance, this second life no one can ever say they saw or they’ll have to show you their own blood too.
It all echoes in the underpasses where ghosts like to drift with needles and razors and maggoty boxes of noodle-roni. It all lives in shadow where the cars are afraid to park, where unspent rage finds purchase in the oil spills and the exhaust drips of tired dry asphalt. You’ll never see it. You’ll never know it’s there. You’ll never see the blood because if you did your whole life would unravel from the navel outwards.
So show me the dirt. Show me your veins. Show me your blood and I’ll show you mine.