February 14, 2020 | Narrative
candy that does the talking
The candy heart was originally meant to be a lozenge. The trend of the time (the 1840s) were these small medicinal candies to ease your aches and pains. Simple, sweet, and easy as that. Candy hearts became medicine for a different type of pain—saying a sweet thing out loud that can be gobbled up impolitely.
The first ones weren’t hearts at all, but scalloped shapes with full meandering sentences. Stuff like “How long shall I have to wait? Please be considerate.” Eventually, they decided to be more concise. To cut to the chase and put it in a heart-shaped case.
Candy hearts are simple: sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, gum, coloring, and artificial flavoring. Gelatin is an animal byproduct derived from tissue. It gives candy its form, its fluff. To be more on the nose, it’s bone dust.
Pink colored flavored bone dust is wetted and put into molds, hundreds of thousands of sweet hearts pressed between machine, sheet, and mat. Ready to be pressed one last time before they are pressed into your beloved’s palm with phrases like…
My favorite valentine I’ve ever gotten was written on the back of a tomato soup label, and it wasn’t really a valentine, and it wasn’t really for me. You may know that soup labels dissolve easily when exposed to water. You may also know that it is often hard to say the things we mean because they come out flatter in words than they are in our bodies. What if we thought to write to each other as if the words were dissolving, as if we could try it again, and again, and again…
When I say I love bats, I am thinking that they are me and that I am trying to love that, too. How they communicate with the world so that they, the bats, might move through it—sending clicks ahead of themselves, moving the air gently with the force of their bodies, sending out waves of sound that wash over each other and the trees and the cement and the empty air. It’s such an elegant and efficient way to be exactly as they are, to be bats.
There is something that happens between the hesitation of my hand and your shoulder and their first, final, fleeting contact. That something is a rule we have silently made and unmade—a glowing necklace, cracked and set alive with phosphorescent purple, around our necks as we crane them up to watch where the stars would be if we weren’t glowing so brightly, for this simple touch that has opened us up to the night.
Mom loves flamingos. Always has. Most people know that they get their pink color from the food they eat. They chew with their head hanging from their long hose of a neck—things like shrimp, algae, crustaceans. Something happens between their beak and their stomach and all that ocean matter turns their bodies pink. Pink, like the last color the sky lets out before it goes dark. Pink, like Rihanna’s dress at the 2015 Grammy Awards. Pink, like a Hostess Sno Ball before you bite in and realize the cake is chocolate. Pink, like flamingos, who most people know are pink from their diet but fewer realize are guardian angels.
Sometimes when I look at you I have the sensation of wrecking, the blurred slipping forward into thinking how I might protect myself, how I might survive after this thing has stopped crashing. We drive two tons of metal at breakneck speeds and yawn while doing it. In February, a deer came barreling into the side of our jade green minivan, crunching the door on my side. It got up and ran back into the woods. The glass of the window glittered.
I’m picturing a slightly chipped pink and indigo shell blushing, lying on a clean porcelain sink. I’m picturing coniferous plants dropping their fragrant needles onto the earth so that your feet have a carpet to walk on. I’m picturing freshly washed hair. I’m picturing you smiling to yourself as you drive along the highway at sunset, the birds silently flocking away from the tree line.
UR A QT
With that said, you are very pretty.
A limb of afternoon sun is reaching its way into the bar, despite the owner’s best efforts to keep his patrons unencumbered by day. The barkeep is making his daughter a pink lemonade, swirling grenadine into Minute Maid. She’s doing her math homework at a table in the corner, and her dad checks over her shoulder, telling her she’s smarter than the average bear.
ME + YOU
Windmills are cutting the pastel winter blue sky on an afternoon in Providence, Rhode Island. They look like pizza cutters. I’m watching an ASMR video of sharp metal against soft dough. I’m reading a nickel paperback romance by an author who’s talking a lot about canines against skin. The blades in the machine press down against the gelatinous dough of the soon-to-be candy hearts. The molar bites through a sugared xoxo. The machine presses into the expansive dough, leaving only pastel hearts behind. The body cleaves in two, to better envelop you. After many years together, we began to reminisce on what we called our “first impression” of one another. This is what we do: We press against each other to see what shape we might leave behind. The cutter kisses the dough to see itself again, and again, and again…
Don’t trust men who hate cats. They only love things that will come when they call.
I’m slurping down a Cherry Coke faster than I should be—sipping and gratitude are counterintuitive. There’s no time. More than 10,000 Coke products are consumed every second. We have to sell ourselves as quickly. By the time I have arrived at the end of my sentence, your eyes are resting slightly above me, like the world’s most interesting TV show is happening up there. There’s something like 80,000 calories in a human body. A horse contains 200,000, and a bear three times as much. The world is a slip, and our attention goes with it. Love is a grasp. Hold it, hold it.