I spent most of the walk that morning thinking about the sensory
qualities of a walnut
I'd found on the ground. I was unquestionably still drunk. Things appeared to me edited like film. A vividly long, slow, grainy shot of that tired
woman on the opposite sidewalk pulling her cart, the one with the squeaky wheel
- a sound that stops all else.
Interspersed, almost static, shots of cats perched on stairs and thresholds staring as I walked by.
The walnut was already cracked and I broke the shell bit by bit between my fingers. How much a shell is like wood - and how much it's different, harder, not grained with soft streaks. Walnuts suddenly seem improbable as a method of propagation: the meat so large and obviously for eating, the shell seeming as if it would be impermeable by blind nudgings of sprouts yet cracked so readily by hungry creatures and underfoot by the careless. Seems as if it would be devoured as soon as it was exposed. How could anything grow out of a coconut? I can't attribute it to the dubious luck of cows: they were bred to impractical and unsupportable proportions by those who both protect and destroy them. These just are, large, armoured food; a thing-to-be.
And inside; the flesh, in its pale brown inner paper-skin. Their crenulation always made me think of small brains before (in halves, symmetrical) but now when I break off pieces and peel back the skin - it's white inside, smooth, and it reminds me more of bones and crimped bleached driftwood. It seems as if each of the intricate bumps and contours must have a purpose, like hip joints and earbones do, some kind of magical mechanical purpose to its shape. And so smooth, oily not like lotion or grease or anything like that, but a healthy oily. I hesitate to say - it's so typically considered a flaw - like hair that's got its own oils in it, like a wooden comb that's been run through those oils for years, like an old curved bannister that's polished by nothing but generations of hands. I imagine looking at a fingertip under high magnification. It's not the oil in the pores that shocks you. It's the way you can watch them refill after you wipe it away. It's supposed to be there.
So, the inevitable, though I'm not hungry. Walnuts have their own teeth-feel. I expect the astringent tang of tannin, having never eaten a walnut off the ground before. Don't they have excessive tannin before they're roasted? Or have I been fooled? I'm waiting for an aftertaste, of dryness, of bitterness, something. This tastes fresher than most walnuts I've had, cleaner, but that could be the morning, it could be the tiny bite I've taken. It's probably my imagination, looking for difference. Because you see what you want to see, etc.
I see the tan skin flake off under my fingernail as I bare more of the flesh. I break the shell further. The nut, as I walk, is thoroughly destroyed, catalogued item by item as I might catalogue a home I was leaving. I leave bits of shell at intersections. I am gathering my strength in order to make the day work despite my lack of restraint. Starting with the small things I can easily manage: wonder, sidewalks, litter, miracles of plant procreation. Walking.
Wondering how to capture and share this life. Sometimes glances translate into film readily, and sometimes sounds into words, and sometimes a piece of love becomes warm food I can hand over. But say I had to explain what I'm all about. Let's just pretend you asked me. I have to say my best ambition is to share with you what's so wonderful about all these things, being able to walk straight, to eat a nut, to look a cat in the eye. 'You' being the generalized 'you', that would otherwise give up on things, that would assume there is nothing between your door and your car, that would kill for one reason and sell for another, seduce without caring and put a price on the quality of life.
I haven't got a lot to offer up. I think there are others in my karass, though, I get rocks in the mail and someone has been hanging small photos in public places around here and the woman at the bakery is so generous & kind. So I won't worry too much about answering. It'll seem like a redirection when I point out a chestnut that's fallen from a tree, but really I'm crediting Bart, who brought me handful of shiny brilliant buckeyes when I was playing host-without-a-home. Then I will ask you back to my house and maybe as we walk end up holding your hand. Which is me learning from you, don't you know? And it helps me to continue to see when I'm tired, my mind is foggy and I can only think of one thing at a time.