The Knot Or Dragon Or Vine / 27 November 2001
We’re having Thanksgiving at somebody else’s house, some other family, the family of a girl I go to school with, M, and yet there’s such a clean consistency of traditions—who really messes with this one, aside from the vegetarians, of which M was one? I try to sympathize, going on record saying I prefer my food to be absolutely processed, no visual connection between the end-product and the original animal, see, something really ground up and mashed together, see because I take no pleasure in the murder end of things, but then something comes over me when it’s time to carve the turkey (a sweet euphemism, that, like we’re taking some raw material and fashioning it into art) and I become fascinated by the process, all revulsion evaporating like—
Like in biology class, like before I ever had to take biology and heard about dissecting frogs and feeling a strong sense of dread (and I imagined, back then, that is was similar to the dread that women felt about childbirth, knowing that this experience would [perhaps] [though back then I skipped the perhaps] happen to them someday, this unbelievable pain, this pain that made you scream full-bore) about the whole thing, saying nuh-uh no way but then the day comes and not only is it OK but I lose all sense of decency, going so far as to chop off the frog’s hand, placing it in between a few brightly colored organs and then crying out in alarm: Mr. P! What the hell is this? Jesus Christ, man! And then the cow eye and the squid ink and the nicotine-injected goldfish and the shrieking earthworm and on and on.
M and her punk rock friend are disenchanted by my meat-zeal and there’s some tension when I follow them to her room but I deftly adjust the tension to be us vs. them rather than them vs. me. Totally easy. We shut the door. There’s a bead curtain and Grateful Dead tickets are scotch-taped up one entire side of her mirror. The bed is narrow and askew. We’re sitting on the floor. I keep my foot angled slightly inward to appear nonchalant. “Did you hear what he said?” and “My god, I’m going crazy in this place.” The punk rock friend nods but she’s just glad to be out of her house, which is dank and violent. I learn that the hackneyed dramas on television come from somewhere real, though the real things tend to be funnier and only end when someone dies.
The punk rock friend says she has a new tattoo and she’d like to show it off but not with me in the room and M says “oh c’mon, god” and I say nothing, whatever, I can take it or leave it, I was just about ready to ditch you broads anyway, and the punk rock friend sighs (in a way that makes me think she’s used to exposing things she didn’t really want exposed, though I convince myself I’m over-analyzing) and stands up and lowers the elastic band of her black skirt and then the elastic band of what looks like men’s jockey shorts and there’s her white hip, bony and strange, and there’s the corner of her pubic hair, black and long, and there’s the tattoo which is complex and begins somewhere even lower on her pudenda and crawls up and around her navel, and the skin is still raw and red from the needle, the design still scabbed and slick with vaseline. She pulls up her skirt and I have zero idea what the tattoo was. It has been obliterated from memory. Sometimes I’ll make it a dragon, sometimes a sort of coiling vine or celtic knot, sometimes the word MIGHT in heavy gothic lettering but in truth it could be anything.
Dinner’s ready and we shuffle back out and fill up our plates. The lights are dim, there’s wood and brass. M and her parents get in a minor political squabble. I make eye contact with nobody, not really even believing that we’re sitting here eating turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing and cranberries, sort of aghast and disappointed that the world was still out here.