I read a lot. Mostly, I read nonfiction, due to my practically insatiable curiosity. I love learning and discovering and I believe that curiosity has probably been the greatest driving force in my life. But, in the past few months, that curiosity dried up and processing all of these lofty ideas felt like eating cardboard. So, a friend lent me a novel: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Reading this book, I felt like raisin nourished back to grapehood. I finished it just days ago and I highly recommend it! The story, a story made something come alive for me, mostly as a writer. It’s made me think differently. There’s something about the way that fiction writers often include details and observations that exist simply to create a feeling or an image without the responsibility of driving the story forward.
I’ve even found myself thinking in third person and as a writer, telling my own story – even the tiny, everyday stories – can make for a richer, more concrete experience. It is a little new for me, but I’m going to give it a go…
She ordered a beer and a fried chicken sandwich, the server unaware that Chelsea had just taken an unplanned detour on her walk home in order to answer a craving for meat – a craving that only occasionally occurred and was fulfilled even less, and for years hadn’t at all. She had been a vegetarian for eight years and now sensed that her body demanded something primal. The cravings almost only ever came the week before her period.
Leo was accepting, even encouraging, of her lapses from vegetarianism, but could he ever really understand the cloudiness in her head, the way her words seemed to stall somewhere between her brain and tongue? The tears that welled in her eyes, often by surprise, crying at silly videos on YouTube or at the part in her book when Obama wins the presidency and the black characters rejoice? She herself didn’t really understand why even the simplest sentence could cause her to feel everything so viscerally. Photos of strangers helping strangers, kids with cancer and bald heads – all she knows is that she touches humanity; her humanity is touched within her.
Words provided little comfort. The only language she knew at this point was wordless and energetic. Touch, hugs, sex, hot showers, comfy clothes, food. Meat, especially, seemed to hold her down in some way, preventing her from expanding too far, spreading, melting, taking pieces of her away on the floods of emotion. She was always surprised when after a meal that included meat that her brain cleared and sharpened and she could hold a coherent conversation, without stammering or losing herself to tears. It felt like medicine, this food, this flesh. Eating the chicken sandwich centered her, anchoring her to the earth.
And, for all of you staunch vegetarians and vegans out there: please, I get it. I struggle with this inside myself every. damn. time. As I always do in these cases, I eat only meat that has been sourced humanely and sustainably. And, as always, I offer my deepest and sincerest thanks for this animal who lost its life. I try my hardest to live as in tune with the Earth (as much as is possible in NYC, anyway). Part of that is listening to my body, as part of the Earth herself.