The Corn Chowder Story, part 2.

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You could consider this a guest post, though I did not ask OGS’s permission to post these. He knows, though, and doesn’t care. Muhahaha!  Anyway, read part one here. This won’t make sense without it.

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When I left home at 18 I put two holes in my left ear and one in my right and I became a vegetarian for ten months. It was an assertion of independence, a way for me to imagine I had established control. I was a grown up; I was sure of it. And I lost 30 pounds that summer, effortlessly malnourishing myself with Cheetos and Pizza Hut breadsticks and leaving out all the fatty, fleshy calories that help build strong, heavy bones and muscles.

Existere ended up a vegetarian for a slightly more valid reason: sometimes meat makes her throw-up.

Some women talk about establishing close relationships with other women to such an advanced degree that their physiologies begin to correspond, they menstruate at the same time and can actually feel sympathy pain for the other during physiologically stressful moments like childbirth or a breast reduction. My relationship with Existere, by this point, had advanced to a similar degree, and as I watched her eyes flood with the sour tears of nausea I felt a burble in my own stomach.

She’d dropped the spoon into the bowl of backwashed, rejected corn chowder and spit one last time and with a final nauseated shudder.

“Chicken…” she said quietly, like it was truly unimaginable, staring for a few minutes at the table, trying to make sense of what had occured: honest mistake? unforgivable betrayal? It was unclear to me what would happen next. On one hand, the nearly-full pot was still on the counter and my own nausea was starting to subside; if it truly was chicken that had ended up in this mixture, perhaps the remainder she would bequeath me and then I could eat as much of it as I wanted; I was once again ravenous. On the other hand, this was Existere, who was already scheming something behind her eyes, perhaps to photograph the soup flushing down the toilet, or flying through the window, to send the snapshots to her mother. “Thanks so much for the hearty corn chowder!” the note enclosed with the photographs would say, the word ‘hearty’ would be underlined.

When she stood up, trembling with the anger that was building inside her, I felt rage squinting my own brow into vicarious tension. I imagine this is what gang members feel right before they make good on the “I’ve got your back” promise and beat the teeth out of someone who has a fellow offended. Existere looked right through me and said, with a calm in her voice that reminded me of a kindergarten teacher or a serial killer, “Get me the phone,” and I obeyed.

Later that year, before I moved away from Existere, she called me at my Mom’s house. She asked me when I was getting back to the apartment in order to leave for our job as weekend counselors at a Girl Scout summer camp. When I told her I had decided not to work that weekend, that she would have to go without me, she screamed that if I was going to be such a “promise breaker” that I should not bother coming back to her apartment at all. We had four phone calls that day: twice she hung up on me, and twice her then-girlfriend called to say—”I swear”—Existere was not on the other line and that I could talk about anything I wanted, with perhaps the sound of a handheld taperecorder squeeking in the background.

What happened next amazed me. I watched Existere dial the phone, lick her lips, and smile sweetly. “Hi,” she said in response to what I imagined must have been her mother’s “Hello?”; their familiarity was automatic and a cordial conversation began.

“I was just having some of this corn chowder and I was wondering what all was in it.”

Her mouth puckered into a quiet suspiciousness.

“Mmmm hmmm,” she said, “What else?”

And then more pause until Existere’s eyes suddenly popped open in a precursory a-ha!

“And what do you think cream of chicken soup is made out of, July?”

“What?! You say you’re sure there’s no chicken in the chowder? And that cream of chicken soup contains no chicken?” She was repeating everything her mother said in exagerated enunciation so that I could perhaps later give testimony in front of a jury of July’s peers.

“Well, you know what July?” And then Existere’s rage blossomed once more and she screamed the most abrasive phrase anyone has ever known right into her mother’s heart, punctuating each word with a period:

Fuck. You.

And then she hung up, throwing the phone on the ground, and her hands went into the air as though to ask me “Why is my mother trying to destroy me?”

The next fifteen minutes we spent going over the facts of the situation. There had been chicken in the chowder, we had all seen it. Existere had J (the other roommate) and I touch the muscley fibers floating in her spoon just to be sure. Her mother had admitted to using Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup in the recipe, though she denied that there was any chicken in the product—”It’s just called that,” she had said. Existere was a mostly always vegetarian and her mother was well aware of this. They had even had a conversation in which Existere explained she only wanted the chowder if it was to be meat free.

It was obvious that someone was lying—perhaps, I suggested, in one last attempt to manipulate the goings-on of her daughter who had become a fiercely independent lesbian with a shaved head. Existere nodded her head painfully while crying into my shoulder.

By the time she was ready to make the second phone call, J and I had already pulled out a good quarter cup of the chicken pieces, ruining the entire batch of soup with our grimey fingers, throwing the chicken into a small Ziplock bag that would be frozen and presented later as evidence.

And then the phone rang. We all froze. We knew who was calling, because in our manic rush to build a case against the mother who then stood as a representative for all the mothers who had ever dared to frown upon homosexuality or vegetarianism, three homosexuals we were united, and we’d forgotten that this wasn’t just another mother stretching the skills of manipulation. This was July, the woman who had taught Existere everything she knows, and July had been hung up on.

To be concluded.

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

  1. Skeet Says:

    I actually can’t wait to read the 3rd installment.

  2. The Corn Chowder Story, part 3. « 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 2. […]

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