The Last Meal in Samsara
Driving to see my grandparents in the mountains of Yancey County, my mama could see her window-gazing baby boy thinking too hard. “What’s wrong, Will?”
“I don’t know whether to believe in god or the big bang.”
“Well, honey, I think you can believe in both.”
The wheel of the world just turns.
At the end of my youth when I moved to Maine to work on that boat, I stopped looking through the glass and tried to get to the marrow. I’d taken that ride to get booked for some dumb shit. I’d spent everything I’d ever made. I’d hurt this good body.
The Dutchman had me watching the haul going up the conveyor into the heart of his floating factory that sorted rocks from starfish from muck from tin cans from sticks until there were only shiny, bearded bivalves rattling across the sizing grate and dropping through when they were above their bin.
He saw I liked the rocks that were shaped like hearts and told me, “Don’t give one to a girl, it will turn her heart to stone.” He was wrong about this and lots of things, but he was a good captain in the circle he sailed, at least.
I dreaded the minutes at my post, waiting for the machine to jam, slugging weak, scalding coffee, and torching tobacco in defiance of my grimly uncreative day. I ate peanut butter sandwiches from dirty hands and I was tough and I was gentle and I tried to relish it.
But there were stars and memories, and even as I slid into poverty despite caring for the very first time where my money went, every time the sun set I knew I was close to Xanadu.
Pain is not a punishment, pleasure is not a reward.
The delicacy of today was taboo just the day before. The bottom feeder bug is the taste they’d like to remember, trash food for the liberated soul.
This is the prisoner’s last meal meal in samsara.