More death, garlic, and one death

2020.06.23, by Anatolij

Where are we today? COVID-19 swells. The garlic is ready. I died years ago.

COVID-19 in this town.

The nearby Maronite church held some sort of party or gathering this evening. The parking lot was full of cars… After whatever indoor services finished, everyone stepped out and milled about the church grounds, the park. As far as I could see, they were all wearing masks, but not practicing distancing. There were elderly people there…

The other day Mona came crying into our arms about what she’d seen in our COVID ward. They all seemed to be drowning, she said. She was so afraid of what would happen to her parents if they ever caught it.

One of our ED physicians, along with his son, came to the hospital for COVID-19. We don’t know the details. I only noticed the charts in the basket to be sent off to Medical Records… Let me tell you about this man. He is older, very portly. One immediately knows he is working by the grocery chainstore sweets he brings to the staff lounge. Cookies, muffins, danishes, packaged cakes. The man is chasing after death via heart attack, or diabetes. His bedside manner tends to be atrocious as well, never really connecting with the patients nor understanding any of their questions, or how to answer them in such a way that they can understand.

Though he’s been working here for years, he knows not a single name of any of his fellow co-workers (except for the other physicians) and treats those staff with the brevity and stiffness one does with “the help”. His real passion is writing thrillers and directing films that star his son. I do not know the quality of his works but I doubt them to be of particular merit, seeing how he interacts with live human beings.

Still, I would not wish kidney failure or death on this man, nor his son.

The number of positive cases we see in the hospital have increased.

We’ll grow three garlic varieties.

We’ve just harvested our chesknok red garlic. And, to Ansel’s disbelief, I’ve just ordered softneck garlic varieties. Inchelium red (reputed to be amongst tastiest softnecks) and Lorz Italian (something hot and spicy for Mona). To have delicious, home-grown garlic available all year round… I do not ever want to use the bland California softnecks nor the lifeless powder sold in so many grocery stores. Shameful! Neither does Ansel. In fact, it was in a fit of anger that he declared, “Fuck this! We’re growing garlic!” after using up two whole heads of California softneck with no flavour.

Have you ever grown garlic, reader? It’s quite easy. For the hardneck varieties, keep the bulbs in a little bag in the crisper of your fridge for two months before planting, to simulate winter. (The garlic will refuse to develop properly until it is sure that it has fully passed winter.) After that you may plant the individual bulbs, closer to the surface if you would like more scapes, deeper in the ground if you would like larger bulbs. Of course you can always allow the garlic to weather a real winter outdoors… But if that is not available, then a fridge is fine too. When there are only five green leaves left, and all the rest of the scape has browned, it is time to harvest.

If you have a growing climate that allows it, you can opt to plant a softneck garlic instead, which requires no winter to develop. Just keep in mind that the strongest, hottest, sweetest garlic, and most colourful varieties are all hardnecks. And of course the softnecks do not really develop a scape… I love to use those to season my eggs.

Dead mirror

I am not the same person I was years ago. No one is. (Though, Ansel still seems to be the same as ever… Though I know he isn’t. He’s changed—but what he means to me has not, and never will.) Sometimes that is a good thing. Other times one grieves the person lost to time. Injuries and scars have changed me—for the worse. I am far more callous than I ever was before. I have a real, visceral disdain for humanity—not an abstract pessimism, as I had in my childhood and teenage years, but a corporeal instinctive reaction to recoil and to hiss, and to look upon others with suspicion, if not hatred. Betrayal has done that to me. The betrayal that led to my injury—and all the wounds inflicted on me after that.

Today, I have wholly abandoned the hope of ever even partially resembling that person. I’ve accepted this new hardness and hostility that is as part of what I am now as my DNA. Yesterday Ansel accepted it, too. Wholly. I’ve put that man through so much… And we’ve broken up, what, thrice now? At least? He’s seen me and what kind of monster I can be. And he’s decided to stay… Of course he would accept that black shoggoth before I would. That’s just the kind of man he is.

And I spoke with my father today. I told him I wasn’t his son. He said that was fine. I yelled at him: “What do you want from me? What could I possibly offer you? Stop wasting your time with me!” He admitted that he could never regain his son. But he could gain his son’s friend. I was his son’s friend. I could teach his son… how to pick his friends… and in turn he could teach me how to pick my enemies. …

And in that man’s arms I felt whole again and wept. I don’t know what I am to him, whether I’m his son or just the shadow of the person his son used to be, but… But I’ve always loved him. Because he is a good person. How could I not? He is such a good man… Always so kind to me. He taught me… what men are really capable of.

I want to tell him all about the kind of person I am now. I seek to become better without being compelled, by guilt, to obliterate the twisting of my psyche. I’ve tried and I can’t. I am not his son. But I can be someone he can be proud of, all the same.