[A pause.] Is that your normal breakfast?
Well, no. But the day I took this picture it was.
Are you concerned about fiber? Animals beaten in tiny cages?
Yes. But I ate the cucumber for different reasons.
And by ‘ate’ you mean just ate it? Bit into it, chewed it, like a famine victim?
Yes. You seem baffled.
People eat pickles this way all the time. I ate an unpickled pickle.
Only pregnant women eat pickles for breakfast and even that is disturbing.
Now you seem uncomfortable. I feel you want me to explain myself, which seems strange and unwarranted. What do you care what I eat? It’s a free country.
Yes. But a raw cucumber…did you eat the whole thing?
Are you sitting down?
Then yes. I ate the whole thing. I ate it because it’s not something that keeps, and it’s mostly water, and it had been sitting on my fridge’s top shelf for over a week, staring out with its doleful green. It was a gift from my yoga teacher, who was passing along another yogi’s overwhelming garden output. I left it on the top shelf to remind myself to honor this gift by eating it. The days went on, as they do, and it sat there, as tends to happen. This morning I noticed the wrinkles in its skin and felt….
I was going to say shame, but I don’t think it was that. It takes practice to develop new habits, and shame and failure are states of mind I’ve spent way too much time in. So I need a minute to think of something else. [A minute passes.] I don’t have a name for it, but it’s that caring feeling you get when a kid’s ice cream slides off the cone to the ground. No fault of his own, he was trying to be neat, and it just fell. He’s sad. You know what that’s like. So you say: It’s okay, kid. It’s just ice cream. Let’s get some more. And the kid feels better and so do you, because he has a simple problem you can really fix. So that’s what came to me that morning, looking at the cucumber going bad: not so much a I should eat that because I’m a selfish bad person if I don’t, but Eating that would be a simple way to make things really all right. Thank you for indulging me.
It was a good cucumber, full of wonderful smell. It was good to eat, to know it had some from someone’s garden, that they had cared for it, then gave it away. Gardens are about that, in my experience: putting in effort that may go nowhere, taking pleasure in beating back the bugs, the mold, late-night snacking critters, to end up with something you didn’t make, not really, but that was created with your care. And then there’s too much so you give it away, so everybody can have a little.
Do you feel that way about toast?
I would if I knew the person that baked the bread. Hm. I see what you mean.
I didn’t mean anything. I was expressing my incredulity that you’d invest so much in some anonymous garden castoff.
I suppose that’s the point. Normally I wouldn’t. But a person I don’t know put their own effort, skill–love, even–into that cucumber. You know, when I think of all the gardens I’ve known, they’ve all been tended by recalcitrant, strictured men–the ones that are upstanding, respectable, get up every day and go to work. They take refuge in their gardens where the work isn’t toil, but a love they couldn’t express anywhere else. And then when they were overrun with tomatoes or zucchini, they gave it away. They were glad to do it, expected nothing from it. There would always be more.
Everything’s a metaphor with you.
Maybe. Everything connection: past, present, future. What would my world be like if my food came from people I knew as friends? Maybe that is what old-timers go on about how things were different: that human connection everyone had, had to have for survival. Now we have machines, TV, collateralized debt obligations. A cucumber you can bite into. A cucumber can be a symbol, but it is real.
[A pause.] It’s hard to know what’s real with you, when now is.
It wasn’t that day. That day the sun shone, and I completed a small thing. Things came together and I was there to see, and smell all the cucumbers from all the gardens, and I remembered summers I’d forgotten, and fireflies.