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In Retreat, Parts I and II

02.14.2014

I

He cleaned the plates, dishes flooded in from the dining room, clacking their arrival. Each yielded a different consistency and combination, the particular tastes of each eater, what had been mixed, what had been left. Staring at these, listening to the soothing click and run of the large dishwasher, he marveled at the protean nature of food: how clean and pure when raw—crisp, bold, wholesome, peeled and sliced and grated—how dirty and unbecoming when cooked—mashed and mushy and sticky and congealed and crusted-over and soupy and slushy. The raw product was a jewel, pulsing with an unconsumed energy, waiting with rash desire to transform itself. Cooked, it sagged with exhaustion, its journey over, its potential, plucked. Raw was its youth, consumption its middle age, defecation its end. So goes food.

II

He’d been watching her for fifteen minutes, from the window, moving over the snow like a furry animal. She was dressed against the cold, a thick hood and gloves and boots. She seemed to be searching for something. He’d look around, attempting to determine what it was, but he never could figure it out. Plus there was nothing doing. He started laughing. He could picture her out in the middle of some snowy plain, huge distances all around, Antarctica. And she remaining intently focused, her eye ever to the finder, consumed by a world of white.

Just up the snowy hillside behind her, a Nepalese monk was performing sun-lit salutations to something or other. He picked up a handful of snow and tossed it. He signed to the east, to the west, north and south. He did some sort of roll with his hands, like the popular dance move at weddings. Her footsteps were making a pretty pattern in the snow. They trailed up and down the slope, crisscrossing, down to the river. He kept on smiling and shaking his head. Yes, a lost animal, questioning, continuing to do what it knows how, no matter how inappropriate or uneventful or unnatural or uncalled-for or unnoticed. A chipmunk searches for nuts. The river flows by and the snows fall and if or if not the chipmunk finds any does not matter. The same things happen. The same urges lead us and let us speak.

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