Eat | Read with Kristen Iskandrian
What I’ve been eating:
Honestly, the best thing I ate this week was the fried chicken I picked up at Publix last night in the waning ice storm. Schools were closed yesterday, so all of us were home, and Brian took the girls to see that movie about Paddington, quite possibly called Paddington, and I stayed put to work and organize our tax stuff. I ate a real breakfast but otherwise nibbled absentmindedly for the rest of the day, and before we knew it, it was 5pm. I recommend visiting Publix during an Alabama (read: not very serious) ice storm. There were only a few other shoppers there and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. The chicken was gratuitously breaded, as fried chicken should be, and maybe it had been sitting under the lamp a little too long, but none of us complained.
Currently I’m the one who’s been sitting under the lamp too long, here at the Dominican Salon. The women think I’m nuts for always bringing my computer. It’s actually a very good place to do work. The dryer is loud and hot, so there’s a sensory deprivation kind of thing going on, where you can’t hear or feel anything else. After a while the metal clips attaching the curlers to my head start to pull and burn, but you work against it, sort of pushing into the pain. I sometimes imagine that the metal and my computer and the heat are conspiring as a kind of weather system to plant inside of me a new and special kind of cancer. After the dryer—it takes me an hour or more under there—there is the blow dry portion of the program, its gusting heat and Trina’s yanking brush like two modes of artillery at once. All of this to get my ethnic hair to look more or less “regular,” and yes, I’ve spent a lot of time in the Dominican salon wondering why I put myself through it. The answer is that, in spite of the pain, or maybe because of it, I enjoy it. I like being there. I like listening to the women talk. I like the blaring synth, vaguely Christian-sounding Spanish pop songs that the older employees know all the words to. I like the Spanish soap operas on mute. I like the silent camaraderie of the other women in there.
What I’ve been reading:
Speaking of pain, and heat: this week I read Sarah Gerard’s BINARY STAR, which I found to be as dazzling and gutting as so many reviews have promised. Gerard’s prose is razor-sharp; I actually had the sensation of being gently sliced into as I read. You know a bodily experience is being rendered well when you can feel it in the corresponding parts of your own body. Gerard’s protagonist’s anorexia, bulimia, and addiction to drugstore fat-burners and laxatives made me taste metal, ketones, and smoke. There is a marvelous tension between the delicacy of these topics and the austere forthrightness of Gerard’s delivery. What’s particularly impressive to me is how innovatively she uses the motifs of astrophysics to transcend not only the physical bodies of her characters, and not only their psychic and spiritual agonies and agendas, but also the very idea of what a metaphor can be and do. The behavior of the stars and the behavior of the characters trail after one another, as though the narrator and John are receiving their instructions from the heavens themselves, as though we, as humans, are carrying out patterns that have been inscribed in space since the beginning.
So I guess, this week: heat, beauty, and punishment—three hallmarks of having a body, be it human or hydrogen/helium.