French Croissants and American Fear–In Which We Flex our Imaginations

Dear Lily June,

At thirteen months old, you are still a mystery to me. What goes on in your imagination largely belongs to you and you alone, and no amount of your babbling (mama, dada), shouting (hey, duck) or raptor squealing (spelled like it sounds, obviously) has yet revealed the inner workings of your mind to me.

And yet, I get the sense that, in watching you play, the cogs are spinning furiously in your brain machine. When, the other day, you picked up a stacking ring and held it up to your eye to look at me through its open hole, then smiled and giggled, I desperately longed to know what were you imagining you were doing, my dear. Was the ring a telescope? A donut? Do you know even understand what either of those objects are yet? To know that you are thinking, I suppose, is all I can content myself with at this point. To learn what you are thinking is something I’ll have to wait for language to reveal.

And yet, there are times when your mother feels just like this: That my imagination has a better understanding of my feelings than simple language can convey. This is the trouble with writers, Lily; we convert our confusion into art to hopefully make sense of its target. And nothing confuses me more lately than the state of America and its politics.

I had hoped to write you something simple, something silly and imaginative, something to get away from the topic of home-buying I’ve gotten so bogged down in lately, but silly didn’t strike. Instead, sitting to eat the croissant I brought with me for lunch today, and remembering a recent article I read in the New York Times about how croissants being baked straight signals the decline of civilization, and remembering also a recent prose piece I read about an imagined event that causes people confusion and fear, I found myself writing about my fear of, and confusion with, politics through the vehicle of the curved bread itself.

It was like trying to stare at the chaos of hatred and violence and racism and homophobia stirring in America through the hole in a circular piece of bread. I hope someday, Lily, that makes more sense to you than it does to me. Maybe it was just an exercise in absurdity, but below, I offer you my imitation of Domet’s piece above, and my hope that, when it comes time for me to explain what was going on in America in 2016, I’ll have a better grasp on the words I need than this troubled little story conveys.

(Do note the imagined narrator; your mother in no way stands for, or with, those for whom hatred is a religion.)

***

The Year the Croissants Were Baked Straight

Though the name remained unchanged, the culinary comma had uncoiled, as if the moon itself had only been an arched cat’s back, and it had always been waiting to shift from flexed to relaxed. No one until then had known the croissant had been the stop valve of curve. Come undone, it opened the floodgates to a flatter, sharper world.

In drawers, the spoons splayed flush like spatula’s heads; in beds, the lovers who had been curved into one another sprung to a point like the bayonets of old soldiers. In closets all over, the fists of hangers unhooked and rained to the floor in metallic clatters; in the actual rain, umbrellas collapsed until they looked like spinning plates on sticks, though nothing was moving but the raindrops’ splatter.

Stripped of our parabolic spirals, we were less soft with one another, more likely in conversation to catch like fork tines pressed together. Everything started to seem as finite and simple as lines, and we drew them over and over again to divide ourselves from our neighbors.

Straight became the preferred word, and those who tried to reinstate curves were told they were snakes on the wrong side of a wall with so stiff a brick spine, it might as well have been God’s. To prove our allegiance, the most devout of us stopped using the letter C- altogether, though it –reated much –onfusion for a time. Eventually, we found most words could be filled with Ks, Ks, Ks.

The new way felt like perfektion, or so we thought, until, inside the right angles of our guns, our bullets folded like origami, and our triggers no longer fish-hooked around our fingers. No matter. We stopped trying to shoot them then and just used them for smashing and igniting gunpowder fire. Our flags were simpler now, too: every state just used variously sized stripes of a shade called Great Again, like white only whiter.

***

Picture Credits:

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