Poland / Paraguay
Everything is symbols, I said to my mother. Everything follows a pattern.
She didn’t know what I was talking about again. It was just another thing to worry about, another example of how crazy her son was. I couldn’t leave the house without coming back and telling her about all the patterns I’d seen, all the déjà vu, all the repetitions in images I’d seen, the unbelievable chance of everyday life.
She despaired. She put her skull in both her hands and tried to smother herself. Mother, stop it, I said. Please don’t die, please don’t suffocate in your beautiful papery hands, who will cook my dinner?
My son, she said. Is it always going to be this way? Last month you couldn’t eat foods that began with the letter A or even contained the letter A.
It was true. Spaghetti? No thanks. Eggs? Right, there we go, finally, something I can eat. Asparagus? Get out of here. And so on and so forth. I became very thin over the course of the month, but I was glad to be a pioneer of the alphabet diet and hoped that others would follow me on my path towards creative eating.
Who lives in the house? Just us, my mother and I.
Her name is Pearl, my name is Jewel.
How did we get our names, I asked my mother.
We were named, she said, after things we found in boxes.
My grandmother was called Rod, my grandfather called Pin. My father was called Button. He died a terrible death in a faraway country that began with P. Was it Poland? I believe so. Poland or Paraguay. He was crushed by a car that fell from the sky.
One night, my mother snuck into my room one night and tied a rope around my body.
What gives, mother dear?
But with what? I don’t feel sick. I just have so many thoughts. My head’s fat with thought, mother.
You’re a nut job, just like your father was.
Father, fearer of dogs. Yap yap, the dogs would say and he would run up trees, my father the pussycat. Father, who created divisions in his food, say the pasta from the meat and would dig tiny trenches, create wars on his plate.
I was my father’s son, yes indeed.
I thanked my mother and she carried me out of the house like she was carrying a small carpet and put me in the trunk of her car.
I was driven out to what I would like to call the sticks. I was cut loose, and my mother threw me a parcel of food that was sealed with waxen paper.
You need to fend for yourself now, she said.
But what about you? What about the life we had?
There is no life. I can’t go on like this.
She jumped back in the car and drove off. I was left in the sticks with my parcel of food and a small backpack. I walked into the forest and began my life afresh.
Needless to say, this life did not start well.
I was attacked by large spiders and bitten on my milky legs. Spots here, here and here. I scrubbed them off. I batted flies away. I starved for a good long while and began to eat plants. A dangerous game, indeed. Not all plants are intended to go inside of the human gut. One plant made my head expand and it took several days for it to deflate.
Another plant made my anus lax and I was thus emptied. My ass blew raspberries to the wind, to the silence of the forest.
But in time, I became a master of the forest. I built myself a house out of sticks, rocks, mud. I was a master hunter. Years passed. I developed a lean physique, my muscles stringy and my thought sharp and direct.
Things were hewn by my hand. Spears, yes, and other objects. I speared a bear in the head. I skinned the bear and wore it. I cooked and ate the bear, used its bones to make sweet music in the wilderness.
I constructed a shelter there, finding myself a shallow part of the forest. It was small and held me like a hand. I slept on a bed of leaves, bark and discarded tarp. I created fires. I warmed my hands on the fire. There was a version of me, I thought, from years before, a city-me, that had been whittled down to something lean and dangerous.
But one day, something just clicked inside my head. A small voice in the back of my brain said get up and go, your mother is waiting. Get up and go, your father is waiting too. I walked back out of the forest and a car passed by. It covered me in rain water. I remembered the art of hitchhiking and put my thumb out for another car. Somebody stopped for me and they rolled down the window. It was a large man, plump with flesh, and he looked me up and down.
Where are you headed, he asked.
Poland, I said. Or maybe Paraguay. He said okay. I got in and closed the door and thought what a good father I would be one day.
Oliver Zarandi is a writer based in London. His work has appeared in Diagram, Hobart, Hotel, Queen Mobs, Vol 1 Brooklyn. His debut collection, Soft Fruit In The Sun, is out in September from Hexus Press. Follow him Twitter @zarandi