I don’t remember why I walked into the Barnes and Noble that day. Maybe it was because it was raining and I didn’t have an umbrella. I never have an umbrella when I need one; You always thought that was a charming idiosyncrasy, but I think it belies a naivety – an unpreparedness for the harsh realities of the world – and that embarrasses me.
I ducked into the withering chain bookstore. I headed straight for the back corner of the store – to the New Age and Alternative Beliefs section – where we had our first kiss. We pretended we wanted to learn about crystals and astral projection, but we just wanted to learn about each other; to hear each other’s ideas, stories, hopes, and fears.
I wanted to know you. To sit so near to you, cross-legged on the floor, our denimed knees pressed together. To lean towards you and softly graze your lips with mine. You tasted sweet – like the grape Jolly Rancher you had just eaten – and your hair felt damp. It was raining that day too.
You were like an angel to me then, Beth, otherworldly, pure and yet so real… so human. I fell in love with you at that moment, and I believed you loved me too. Maybe I walked into the Barnes and Noble that rainy day a year later to revisit this memory. Perhaps I wanted to pay homage to the woman who taught me how to love, how to truly be seen; who encouraged me to follow my dreams and told me I meant so much to her.
But what did I see that day, Beth, my beauty, my muse? What did I see in the Barnes and Noble New Age and Alternative Beliefs section on this fateful day? A day that obliterated all days and all memories and shot through the core of my being, like a supernova, sending the shrapnel of my disillusionment mixed with bloody bits of charred flesh that used to be my body (that used to be my heart) flying through the store. These broken pieces of myself covering all the patrons, all the employees, all the books – books filled with beautifully crafted words woven into glittering tapestries of human experience from the beginning of time – with my splattering, sickening spray of blackened betrayal and agony?
I saw you, Beth, sitting cross-legged on the floor in the back corner of the New Age and Alternative Beliefs section, reading aloud from “The Encyclopedia of Crystals,” his head in your lap, you stroking his hair, he absentmindedly caressing your thigh in a gesture of comfort and past intimacy. He stopped you and asked about the characteristics of selenite as your eyes flickered upward to mine and we were locked in an eternal second of panicked horror. I turned away and quickly left the store, running through the rain to my apartment building. I stopped at the store on the corner where I bought an umbrella. I haven’t seen you since that day, Beth, and I pray that I never do, but I always carry my umbrella now… just in case.
This is my favorite recipe. Beth never let me eat it because she’s allergic to Monsanto. But who cares about GMOs now? Who cares about anything anymore?
1 box Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
Follow the instructions on the box.