Four Onion Rings and a Funeral

If you ever want to feel terrible about yourself just imagine at your funeral your loved ones deciding a great way to honor your memory would be to cook your favorite foods to serve to the mourners. Nothing quite sums up a life wasted like a platter full of cheesy french fries.

“So many memories,” your best friend would say, shoving another mozzarella stick into their mouth. Everyone would nod solemnly.

About halfway through the Wake, your father, half drunk on Sex on the Beaches (your favorite), would start loudly saying that if everyone doesn’t slow down on the effing Ice Cream Sandwiches there would be none left for late comers. Your first girlfriend would politely put her third one back in the ice chest.

If you were still alive you’d probably feel a bang of guilt as you watched your coworkers work their way through an entire package of Oreos. The package is opened with verve and anticipation, coworkers laughing and retelling stories as hands reach in for another cookie. But slowly, as the full brunt of the task becomes clear, the chatter dies down and the laughing turns to quiet desperation. Finishing the entire package suddenly becomes monumentally important. A symbolic gesture, a final sacrifice those who care about you are willing to make on your behalf. Everyone watches as Donnie breaks from the circle and heads to the bathroom. Everyone hears as Donnie vomits loudly and moans a little. Nobody says anything. Soon the cookies are all gone. Donnie returns a short time later.

Sorry Cotton, Food is the fabric of our lives. It binds us together. We do most of our sharing with food. Most of the time its the one thing we can give to those around us. The sharing of food is both inconsequential and terribly dear to us. We chat and laugh most fully with food in our mouths. Our tongues become looser while working around foodstuffs. The taste of salt and spice evokes powerful memories.

Your mom spills her broccoli cheddar soup, the bowl smashing to the ground and cracking into pieces. She starts to cry and several people rush to help clean it up. A quiet but heated discussion begins in the corner of the room over whether broccoli cheddar really was your favorite kind. People have compelling and reasoned arguments to the possibility it was vegetable. Others don’t seem convinced. A promise is made to ask your mom when she is emotionally ready.

The food is mostly gone, a few boston cream donuts remain but no one seems interested. Talking has given way to contemplation as their bodies energies turned from grief to digestion. No one wants to leave yet, although the hour is getting late. Somebody offers to drive Donnie home, he is looking pretty pale. One by one, the people file outward into the night. Your extended family stays to clean up, your nuclear family stays because they don’t know what else to do.

On the way home, several of your friends hitch a ride with your first girlfriend (they’ve known each other since high school). As they stare silently into the night, listening to the radio, they think about your life and what it meant to them. Lisa feels something in her coat pocket and produces a curly fry that had somehow fallen in there. Everyone laughs as she rolls down the window, sticks it out and watches as the wind catches it and carries it into the dark.

 

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