"What is this?" I said. First I said it inside my head. There was no identifiable answer to the question. There were responses but most of them were "What if we tried to write a comic book about fish tears?" Or "How about instead of getting a coffee out in the real world around human folks, instead, we run away and turn into a burrito by wrapping our-self in a flour tortilla and smothering our-self with guacamole and then lying in wait? Yeah, that sounds pretty good."
After a moment of polite listening, I realized that no one would deign to answer my question. Then I said it out loud. "What is this?"
Brylie looked over my shoulder at the canister I was holding. She shrugged, sending her beautiful natural blonde hair bouncing in a quirky-pretty-care free rhythm. "Nutmeg or something." She grabbed a packet of sugar and started shaking it to get all of the evil out, or get the grains to the bottom, I don't know.
"Is it for coffee?" I asked, bringing the nutmeg to my ear and giving it a listen.
"Is it good?"
"I don't know." She sounded exasperated now, rightfully so.
I lifted the lid of my coffee cup and set it on the counter, perfectly aligned with my cup. Brylie turned and headed to our usual seats. I brought the canister of alleged nutmeg to my nose and sniffed. The nutmeg smelled like nothing. Or maybe everything smelled like nutmeg. I took a sip of my foamy latte to bring it down a few fractions of a centimeter below the lid.
Holding the canister with both of my hands like a novice, I shook it hard over my coffee. The lid of the nutmeg flew off and the tiny brown speckled powder dumped everywhere, coating the counter, spilling onto the floor. The silver can clanged loudly as I dropped it. Dozens of people looked up at me. Embarrassed, I bent and began to sweep it up with my fingers, struggling to herd the nutmeg mess into some sort of pile or less obtrusive clutter of disgusting dust and empty insipid dregs of life.
As I rubbed my hands over the counter, I gathered sharp splinters into my fingers but I kept rubbing the nutmeg, despite the striking pain. A barista came over to help me but I mumbled something unintelligible. I was beyond help now. I was the nutmeg girl. My mess was light and floated through the air. I inhaled it directly into my nostrils. I breathed in the nutmeg, absorbing it into my brain.
Tiny little balls of painful light burned bright in my sinuses. They led the way, glimmering beacons through my nose and up behind my eyes.
The tiny balls of light whispered "This is the way! This is where the demon lives! follow me, I'll show you how to slay it." Up the pathway through my nasal tunnel, the light lead a knightly hero in armor with a sword to the dragon's cave.
I shook my head. Shaking and trembling in what could only be described as the sense of fear you get from waking up mid night terror, I tried to clasp the lid back onto the nutmeg canister. The hutmeg opened the door to everything and nothing. A flash flood of memories spurted through my consciousness. I wanted to through my arms around Brylie, my best friend, my soul mate, but I knew she would hate that sort of thing.
Staggering, I coughed fifteen times. I wiped my lips and my watering eyes. Always a sweet and empathetic friend, Brylie raised her eyebrows, staring at me with genuine kindness and concern. She told me to calm down and to walk it off.
When I was six I had my first panic attack. I was in school and I had rushed to complete a spelling homework assignment. The worksheet was so easy and I swam through it like a fish through soup. Upon completion, I handed it in and my teacher lovingly teased me about forgetting to put my own name on my paper. I started sobbing and ran to hide under my desk. I hugged my backpack to my chest and shook in a violent rage filled sadness, rocking back and forth.
I remember my teacher telling me to act normal. I wanted to be normal. I didn't know why I shook with pain and fear constantly. I wanted to be just like everyone else. Subsequently, the more I tried, the worse the anxiety attacks got. The more I noticed that I was alone and lonely, the more my habitual panic and freak outs made sure I would stay that way. My panic attacks were both my prison and also the guard that stood in front of the locked cage door with a dorky hat and a sharp spear.
I didn't have a lot of friends. The more I struggled with my anxiety, the worse it got.
The nutmeg obviously didn't think much of this situation. It never asked for this kind of attention. Poor nutmeg, sitting alone at every coffee shop. The nutmeg gets to read the crossword puzzle and keep the sugars and creams and straws and lids company. But what fun is that? Lids are boring. The nutmeg is not sure if it belongs in the coffee or if it's just some sort of weird groupie. Nutmeg sits in the back of the room staring at the coffee, watching the proceeds, taking notes, licking its, and waiting for its turn to get off the bench.
I sympathized with the plight of the nutmeg and wanted to show it a better world. I wanted to come back at night and take the canister and shove it into my bag. I wanted to make nutmeg and peanut butter sandwiches and eat them on a picnic blanket with the nutmeg in a park forever. I wrote a note to myself to come back and remember to steal the nutmeg, to run away together with it, in the hopes of a better future, but I knew I never would.
Dedicated to Matt Robinson