WHAT I EAT I READ

by Wendy C. Ortiz

ISSUE THIRTEEN | FALL 2019

What I eat

 

Many days, for lunch, I turn on the oven. Timed correctly, I shower from the hike and when I’m done, the laundry’s going and my food is ready. The imprint of Shakey’s Pizza, where my parents took me some Saturday nights, the place where she and I had the all-you-can-eat buffet where I would stick to my favorites: pepperoni pizza and fried chicken and mojo potatoes. Many days, a small homage to this. My comfort food. What I eat alone so I don’t have to deal with anyone’s judgment. My personal frozen pepperoni pizza and breaded chicken. 

 

What I read

 

I’ve been reading more books this year than in previous years but maybe not as many as I used to read when the reward was winning a books-read contest in elementary school. I’ve been filling my gullet with books. Most of them poetry books. I’m possibly overreading. No one thinks twice about this. People who know me through other people know me as a lifelong bookworm. The nerd who ate up books three times as big as anyone my age was reading. I’ve been reading more books this year because it’s one way to keep the melancholy at bay. I ride the waves of grief into the next book. The only difference this year is that I’ve been finding the most solace in fiction. The most revelation in poetry. 

 

What I eat

 

Crispy tapioca. Socca. Egg chaud-froid. Pea velouté. Big eye tuna with beets, rhubarb, berries. Asparagus. Black cod. Short rib. Avocado macadamia ginger-aji amarillo ice cream. Grilled black truffle cheese sandwiches over an open fire. Charcoal ice cream. Mignardises. I open. I open so wide. My lips ghosting over a tattooed forearm of a chef in front of me, cutting. The body engaged. Like bunching up the t-shirt I’ve stripped off on the trail as I run, wet with fresh sweat, and pressing it to my face to inhale. The tingle. The heat. Arms working under sleeves over cutting boards, foaming butter. The cold white wine. The hum in my body as I take it in. The feel of my thigh muscles as I run. The feel of my thigh muscles as I lift a fork to my mouth, shift in my seat. 

 

What I read

 

There was a book I read at the beginning of the year that threw everything into question. Everyone else had read it, and one person said, I kind of wish you hadn’t read it. But I read it, and it changed me, and I began a conversation with the book. The conversation began with black gowns. There is a knowing involved in an unraveling. As I wove dozens of paragraphs into long dark dresses I knew what the end would bring. And I could not finish. 

 

I reread that book three more times before I closed it, and the world spat out what was not meant to be. Scissors, blindfolds. A friend texts, months later, I’m rereading it. It’s interesting how it changes meanings. I text back, I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to approach that book again. 

 

What I eat

 

Blueberries mangoes peaches nectarines. I want to brush my skin with the pits of stone fruits. Pretend the pit is an unlikeable character. 

 

What I read

 

It’s not as though I can’t be without fragments. I managed to ingest at least two books this year that were over five hundred pages. One book dragged me deep into the abyss. I asked it to without asking. It was a given. Someone said, Self-care when reading that one. Being deep in the abyss was my self-care. It was part of the healing process. 

 

What I eat

 

Cinnamon everyday. My dream: dal, saag paneer, spicy chicken vindaloo everyday. A compact samosa. A dollop of raita to smooth in. A bit of rice, tangy chutneys. He introduced me to this food when I was nineteen. I arrived in my Indian print hippie dress that accentuated my narrow hips, suggested shy breasts. We were high from fucking and the host covered me in compliments, that I resembled someone, a movie star from India. Are you sure it’s not just the dress? I asked. Ten years later, high from fucking a different man, we demolished the golden mounds of curry and flew over the sidewalks to return to fucking. My turmeric’d fingers pushed the buttons of my blouse into all the wrong holes. He mouthed my nipples and I lost myself in the residual glow of cardamom. 

 

What I read

 

I am shallow. I read certain words and they send me down whole other roads entirely. My lizard brain has a deep connection to my cunt. You write a sex scene, I read it. I read a sex scene and decide if it does its job. But: I am shallow. Orgasmic elaborations of what went in the mouth and how it tasted make me glow warm. I read gyrate, I think hips. I read mouthful, I think tits.  I read alley, I think my hands are touching the wall and someone’s behind me. I read eat, I think open your mouth. I read jugs, I think, set this book aside. Right now. The words know how to do me. 

 

What I eat

 

No kitchen is my kitchen. I give you the kitchen. You know how to look in cupboards and know what foundation to build. You know how to separate the leaves and stems. Your palate is king; you know just the right spice combinations before you even shake their containers. You know ripe from overripe. You own the knives. 

 

There was a period, a few, when I tried learning to cook. Everyone gives up on me, including me. I’ve been known to fail at boiling water. Alone, I eat couscous and a messy egg, golden rich yolk on my chin. I manage. But why manage. This is nourishment we’re talking about. This is more than nourishment. This is aching towards a deep satisfaction my body gravitates toward. 

 

What I read

 

If you’re lying down I haven’t read you yet. If you’re standing up, my fingers touched every page.  

 

What I eat

Questions in a fallen soufflé. Chemical sweet to root me to childhood. The bright next to the bitter. Drink: anything but alcohol: it burns my edges too bright. Sorrow steeped too long.


 

What I read

 

A sheaf of papers I call a poetry manuscript. Its hidden gestation began the year I got sucked into that hole. It began with a phone call. It began with knees on the grass. It began, begins again as soon as I sit with it and give it attention. oh hey, I tweet, I’m ready to open an old wound for the sake of art. Thumbs up emoji. Two of you have embedded in me the ritual of eating paper, words, words on paper. In this sheaf of papers are several black hearts and my hands are sticky with them. I bend one long finger like I am beckoning myself. My fingertip meets my lips. My wanting tongue tastes. Satiated.

Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A MemoirHollywood Notebook, and the dreamoir Bruja. In 2016 Bustle named her one of “9 Women Writers Who Are Breaking New Nonfiction Territory.” Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesThe Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the National Book Critics Circle Small Press Spotlight blog. Her writing has appeared in The New York TimesJoylandStoryQuarterlyFENCE, and McSweeney’s, among many other places. Wendy is a psychotherapist in private practice in Los Angeles, California.

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