“The Great Outsourcing”

James was in slumberland from the comfort of his hallway floorboards, facing upwards to fake sconces and non-matching grey paints. His dribbling had left a sticky trail down his left cheek that continued onto his checkered pajamas, the same kind of pajamas that the silent generation wore to meet St. Peter. Salty, crusty sleep nestled around his tear ducts, as NPR rumbled on from the kitchen about broken promises from the White House.

Aching with tiredness and the dread of impending self-hate, James’ eyelids began to flicker open. The second he was conscious, a buzz of pressure hummed from inside, pushing him to maximize his time with activity.

“You will regret this time spent horizontally staring upwards, James. This day has been tarnished already, you didn’t even make it to Mr. Mattress to enter slumberland. Do you even remember what you did last night, shouting at the picture of Keith? Maybe you sent hate to him? If you can’t remember then how can you be sure you didn’t? Such a lot to make up for today. And you’re just lying here with crusty eyes and slobbery collar.”

James was trapped, falling in a deep spikey hole of his own making. He recalled his venting towards Keith last night, as patches on his back secured from the previous day’s activity peeled off. The person-to-person outsourcing had only exacerbated his pain, and sped up his vulnerability. But he wasn’t done with wiring out his blame.

With no patch coverage, no quilt to soothe the inner noise, the thoughts came in thick and fast:

How long did you spend looking out the window just now? Why aren’t you adding to your Amazon wish list of books? What recipes will you make today and how will you push yourself? You’re not just going to read a Jamie Oliver one, are you? And how are you still burning toast and hardening soft-boiled eggs?”

++

It’s true. James’ egg/toast breakfast choice was underwhelming. But before it could seep too deep, he pushed onwards to harness the morning’s frustrations, commoditize his emotion, and exorcise. This would require one tool — the Dutch oven, and one main skill — stewing.

Down the stairs. Through 2 doors. Under the cellar. ’Twas annoying for James that he kept his tins in his apartment’s foundations. Kidney beans, chili paste, tinned tomatoes in hand, James re-appeared in his kitchen set on creating a hellish meal. To his bubbling pot, he added 2 sand buckets of paprika and 1 petri dish of chipotle, intentionally omitting creams, sugars, and greens.

Encased within the Dutch oven was hate food, angry food. Frustration, food. He moved the pot off the stove, over to a pair of tattered, maroon wool socks that he had sewn together, re-purposed as a trivet:

“One down, many to go”, James exclaimed to, James. “To the clay pot!”

James’ clay pot lay disused in the drawer under his oven, right at the back next to quiche tongs and a wooden flan flipper. Yanking open the draw hurriedly, James scrambled around his Martinique loaf tins, threw his Nova Scotia baking trays over his shoulder, and smiled. Before him, he could now see clay pot, tongs, and flipper. Nicking his hairy fingers on the underside of the drawer, he removed clay pot and turned up the oven heat to 11.

The sweat of pain, stress, and chili heat from his first stew added extra layers of asphyxiation to this next meal. James seared beef, mule, frog, and cat, in a black, burnt breadcrumb onion base. Added road tar, cow bile, and 4 cups of water, as the pot filled with bubbling anger. While the food bubbled, he re-fashioned a hand-me-down Hawaiian shirt from his Uncle Sebastian Tutters as another trivet. For a brief 3 minutes, he moved back from the stove and took stock of his unorthodox stocks.

It was then James acknowledged that the day’s toiling hadn’t been entirely in vain.

++

2 patches, for 2 stews. Thin, lilac linen patches sitting on his lower back, ever so slightly muffling the fighting forces inside.

Why sit James, why sit? You’ve made stews, as far as I can see they’re pretty inedible, but still, it’s output. Keep it up. Perfect what you’re doing. Find friends to eat them. Freeze for later. Don’t waste time.

The sides of James’ mouth stayed horizontal. His subtle jowls slumped a little lower, and color disappeared from his eye bags as he realized a depressing fact of his current existence. Where was the self in his food? Where was James? Was he really much more than a factory, based on a chemical equation of “inner demands + kilojoules à rage munch.” He wasn’t a being, just a conduit for carrying out his insides’ to do’s. Patches or no patches, there was no James in what he was doing.

Speaking to himself, James said “I’m just a portal for you. Where’s me in my life? I have nothing to stand next to as truly mine, your tentacles reach everything and leave me empty. I hate what you implore me to do, make, try, grow.”

James sat a short while longer. His emotional stew today was tasting a little different to him. While there was of course the usual suspects of anxiety, anger, and depression, there was a sweet note of defiance and even a sprinkling of learning curve. And on that note, he decided to christen his inside oppressor. To recognize him as an evil disruptor, separate from himself.

James named him Carmine, and took his clay pot out of the oven to cool.