The Corn Chowder Story, part 1.


So, another three parter written by Opposite Gender Soulmate (OGS) in 2003. This was a term he coined for us shortly after we met – in fact, the first night we met he told me that if he was straight, he would have proposed. This made me feel so cherished and loved and understood and giddy. He was and is a funny, smart, cocky, talented man – the boy I  met caused me to fall into friendship with no qualifications or conditions.

This story about a time when we lived together features me at about age 19 or 20. I don’t think it’s flattering of me, or always literally true, but it is a very honest portrait of who I was at the time, in relation to my mother. My very, very homophobic mother. And of who we were – OGS, me, and our flamboyant roommate J – three scared, but proud, young adults who just happened to be gay.

Please read and enjoy.


chow·der (chou’dar) n. 1. A thick soup containing fish or shellfish, especially clams, and vegetables, such as potatoes and onions, in a milk or tomato base. 2. A soup similar to this seafood dish: corn chowder.

In the winter of 1999 I was on the verge of suicide. It is strangely liberating to admit something like this out loud today, only a few years later, and without the experience of extensive therapy or six months in a psych ward to validate the depth of my depression, or to comfort my readers. The hopeless sleepwalking through the last, bitter-cold days of that dead season I can vividly recall. It was me, who had learned to halt the grinding vitality of anxiety with lethargic exercise; I smothered the choking pain and confusion like a heavy, wet blanket over the mouth and nose. I emerged from near-death in April, without professional help, which is at least superficially disconcerting now because self-help comes without a guarantee against relapse. How can I claim recovery when there are are no prescription bottles in my cabinet and the shoes are still in my closet?

My salvation was a big-breasted lesbian who, the first time I locked eyes with her, looked at me like I was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. And she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. And I remember that moment every time someone says “love at first sight” because of how instantly it began, the most valuable friendship I’ve ever known.

And that summer we rejoiced in knowing eachother, in the almost immediate familiarity of each other. And I was saved by the bliss of having found a soulmate.

And in the fall I became her roommate out of the necessity to rebuild my life. Sleeping on her couch, sometimes beside her, working 60 hours a week to recover from two years of debt I had acrued with my eyes closed, hands tied behind my back (she helped me to untie them). And as frightening a time as this was, I had never felt so much at home in myself or with another person; I had never felt so safe.

I was smoking nearly two packs of Marlboros a day then, and I’d spend my me-time sitting on Existere’s slim concrete patio throwing consecutive cigarette butts onto the lawn below while scribling frantically in a diary I have long since ripped to shreds and burned. Our life together became functional very quickly, generally looking out for each other, and involving each other daily in the details, extravagant and shameful, of our whole lives up to that point. We traded clothes and shoes. We watched horrible soap operas and sobbed through made-for-TV movies together. And we shared everything.

Well, almost everything.

Some things were off limits. We did not, for instance, share our bodies intimately. We also did not share the delicious food July would sometimes leave in giant pots in the refrigerator.

July is Existere’s mother. July is a nurse. July shows concern and pride in her children in such a manner that reminds me of the mother bear in Old Yeller who attacks little Arliss.

And one day, while Existere was napping, I sauntered into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator to find such a giant pot, with a small note carefully scripted and posted on the front of it with Scotch tape.

“For Existere only.”

But I could smell the contents of the pot in the refrigerator even with its cover on tight. And it smelled good. And there was a lot of it.

Another notable thing about that fall was the preponderance of things like Chef Boyardee ravioli and Taco Bell bean burritos in my diet. I distinctly remember being excited about corned-beef hash one night. “Home-cooked meal” was something I had almost forgotten about. I suddenly wanted whatever was in this pot, desperately.

And so, as was my habit that fall whenever the mood struck, I skipped down the hall into Existere’s room to wake her up. She’d had a long weekend and was exhausted, but I was lusting after her private stash of home-cooking—and besides, what are soulmates for?

She growled groggily and tried to slap me when I used both hands to forcibly roll her over and out of the bed onto my lap.

“Hey! Wake up!” I yelled while using the thumbs and index fingers of both hands to forcibly pry open her eyelids. I had already removed a bowl from the bowl cupboard and a spoon from the spoon drawer and they were sitting on the counter next to the refrigerator on top of a napkin I had carefully folded into a triangle. She grumbled and strugled with one hand to pull the blankets off the bed so she could sleep there, on the floor. With the other hand she continued to try to slap me.

“What’s in the pot in the refrigerator? Can I have some?”

And she layed still for a moment without saying anything, and just as I could feel her understanding what I had said, she sat up, fully awake.

“You didn’t eat any of it, did you?” She asked, alarmed.

“No.” I said. “But there’s a lot of it, and I thought you might want to share.”

“It’s corn chowder and My Mother put my special medicine in it, so I have to eat it all.” In those days July was only ever referred to as “My Mother” for dramatic effect. (She was referred to as “July” for a different kind of dramatic effect.) “And if ayone else eats it, they will be made sick by my special medicine.”

Existere’s “Special Medicine,” I’ve learned, imbues any consumable substance Existere wants to keep to herself. It allows her to be selfish without being selfish. It’s not my fault My Mother puts the medicine in it. How, exactly, does the girl at McDonalds know to coat Existere’s Chicken McNuggets with the special medicine? I’ve often wondered.

And suddenly, spurred on by my inquiry, Existere herself was hungry for a dose of medicine and squirmed out of the tangle of covers. I followed her into the kitchen like a scolded puppy who has not yet given up on begging. I watched her greedily scoop the yellow porridge-like substance into the bowl I had prepared. Its smell blossomed in my nostrils, sweet and hearty. In the microwave the bowl rotated and the thick liquid bubbled. It was a soup that eats like a meal.

I sat at the table and watched as she spooned the chowder into her mouth and told me about how it was her favorite thing that Her Mother makes and that she was so happy Her Mother had made it for her. “I love it SOOOO much.” She sang emphatically, the soup gurgling a little in her throat. I was resting my chin on my hands, hoping that if she got full, her resolve to keep all the corn chowder to herself would weaken. “And it’s one of the only things that My Mother makes that I can still eat now that I’m a veget…” She was speaking with her mouth full and stopped suddenly. Her head was hanging over the bowl, her mouth was open, and chunky corn chowder was dripping out of it. Her reaction was quiet, astonished. I could hear the wet pre-vomit cluck starting in the back of her throat, and she spit the rest of the food out of her mouth into the bowl as carefully as possible, trying to avoid the sensation of the liquid on her tongue and lips. Ready to perform the Heimlich Maneuver if it would be necessary, I put my hand on her back. Her whole body was trembling.

She spoke, her voice was cold and stoney. “July… put… chicken… in… this.”

July is Existere’s mother. July is the only only other person I’ve ever met who can stand up next to Existere in a shouting match, the only other woman whose blazing fury burns as hot.

…to be continued.


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2 Responses to “The Corn Chowder Story, part 1.”

  1. The Corn Chowder Story, part 2. « existere (latin): to stand out, to emerge. Says:

    […] existere (latin): to stand out, to emerge. existence as becoming, bursting forth. « The Corn Chowder Story, part 1. […]

  2. The Corn Chowder Story, part 3. « existere (latin): to stand out, to emerge. Says:

    […] one and two should really be read before this, the conclusion of one fight with my mother, but not the […]

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