things you keep in jars
farisia thang and sarah suk inspire each other to write. the following is a piece of writing (poetry/prose/ponderings/etc) based on a prompt that they are musing over together. the second step of many: things you keep in jars.
J Lou found out he was allergic to peanut butter when he was six years old and Mattie Matthews threw a sandwich in his face for being ugly. J Lou didn’t blame Mattie Matthews for doing this. Six was a tough year and it didn’t help matters that his mother made him wear a grotesque hand-me-down orange vest from the 80’s to school every day. “Practical, warm, and bright!” she would say cheerfully as she zipped J Lou up to his poor chin each morning. Heck, if J Lou wasn’t J Lou, he would’ve thrown a sandwich in his face too. Mattie Matthews was sent to the principal’s office and J Lou was sent to the hospital in a severe outbreak of hives and a swollen throat.
His second brush with peanut affiliated death was eight and a half years later at a birthday party where he was meant to kiss Katie Watson on the lips in an unfortunate round of Spin the Bottle. It wouldn’t have been so unfortunate if J Lou had known that Katie Watson had had a mid-afternoon snack of peanut butter and celery before coming to the party. Katie was a nervous girl who never knew what to do with her hands or her hair so she kept both down and ate a lot of celery to calm her nerves. It also wouldn’t have been so unfortunate if J Lou had kissed her properly, but he too was nervous and caught her square in the left corner of her lower lip where a smudge of forgotten peanut butter lay disguised like a beauty mark. J Lou immediately erupted into rashes and felt his throat begin to close, leaving Katie Watson red-faced and stuck with the nickname Don’t-Kiss-Katie for the rest of high school.
It was nearly twenty-five years of accident-free living when J Lou found himself in aisle four of Save-On-Foods, contemplating the shelf of peanut butter (chunky, smooth, organic, no name) and the increasing amount of debt building up in furiously disorganized stacks on his coffee table and inside his own discouraged mind. It wasn’t the first time he’d pondered the shelves of aisle four in a desperate clutch for answers. He’d come here after minor heartaches, like his break up with Rona S in senior year or his first year of college in which he had failed all but one of his classes (and that was a pass/fail scrape by with 50.2% in life painting). He’d come here after some major depressions as well, including his first divorce and then his second divorce and then the loss of his favourite baseball team in the Major League championships (this, to him, was a major depression). His visits to aisle four were never serious though they weren’t entirely casual either. Rather, they were contemplative, a ‘what if?’ sort of visit in which he genuinely considered the possibility. One scoop, one spoonful, and it could all be over. Just like that.
He stared into the eyes of the twin bears smiling at him from the jar of Kraft peanut butter (chunky), searching their faces for some sort of clue. There was no answer, only silent mischievous grins and he was reminded suddenly of Mattie Matthews’ similar six year old smirk as he lobbed the sandwich into J Lou’s face. J Lou stood still for a moment, captivated by this sudden recognition. He knew that Mattie Matthews now worked in construction and wore a neon orange vest every day. He had once or twice considered driving down to the construction site with a sandwich in his hands and approaching Mattie Matthews, sweaty and tall in his ugly orange uniform. They would make eye contact from across the site and J Lou would walk up to him, slowly, taking his sweet sweet time, and when they were face to face, he would hold out the sandwich as an offering and say, “I know what it’s like.”
In that instant, the Kraft peanut butter bears seemed to be saying the same thing to him. “I know what it’s like.” J Lou turned the jar over in his hands and carefully tucked it back into its place on the shelf next to smooth and let out a small sigh. He turned on his heel and walked out of aisle four. Maybe tomorrow he would visit the construction site.