there is a spoiler for Island of the Blue Dolphins in here
by Miss What's-Your-Name-Again?
Oh dear sweet girl.
Fuck. It just broke my heart today, the entire thing. Everyone was so precious in their fancy fucking picture day outfits; you had on that adorable knit hat with the little knit ears that you insisted you had been permitted to wear every year for picture day since you were in kindergarten. The poor parent volunteer who kept coming in to collect you in small groups had laryngitis and seemed one class photo away from a nervous breakdown. I was in a sort of a mood so I was yell-laughing at Jake, whose name I think might have actually been Kyle (I just know it wasn’t Jake.) We were in the middle of reading Island of the Blue Dolphins, and fuck I hate that sad-as-shit book, when she came to grab you and a bunch of other kids for your pictures. And, in the flurry of hair-checking and tie-straightening and reading about that SPOILER ALERT poor girl’s dead brother, you turned around and knocked that pretty glass water bottle of yours, with that clever silicone netting to keep it from breaking, off of your desk. And it broke.
So, of course, you were on the verge of tears when that harried mom ushered you out the door. And, when you returned, you were in full hysterics because, not only was your bottle broken, but you had cried in your picture and… well, you had cried in your school picture. Honestly, I’m tearing up again right now thinking about it. I told you we would figure it out; that if I had to storm the room myself and demand that the photographer take another picture of you, that I would do it (and I would have; I love doing shit like that.) Even the aide, who appeared to be chilling in my room for the sole purpose of going around and checking the math work incorrectly, vehemently agreed that we could get the picture retaken. But you just looked at me with your sweaty face (it was a little warm for a knit cap) and red eyes and quivering lip, and said that you just didn’t want to think about it anymore. My less-sound judgement wanted immediately to chime in that, of course, you would eventually have to think about it because it was a picture that would end up in your yearbook… but miraculously I managed to keep that in. Instead, I sat with you and babbled on about the most remarkable discovery I had made last week: the mug cake. Yes, a tiny little cake that you can make in a mug, in your microwave, that probably doesn’t taste very good once it cools down, but is long gone before then so it doesn’t really matter.
The mug cake has played a significant role in my days lately, which have been troubled too. My double-life as an actress has suffered a few setbacks, and I’m not entirely sure I can keep going if my success, and I have sort of been led to believe that this is the case, is contingent upon asking people for money and/or favors. For the first time in maybe twenty years, I am seriously questioning what will become of me. So I dropped out of that acting class I complained so bitterly about, in an attempt to gain some perspective while I continue to spiral down my little existential rabbit hole. And I didn’t want to join the acting class in the first place, because I don’t like being part of a group, because I so rarely feel like I belong anyway, and belonging is scary because people are fickle and life just goes on. And now the giant fucking joke is that I’m sad I’m not there because I feel left out, even though I’m the idiot who left myself out of it. And I did fall in love with those sweet kids in my class, and for a while I felt like I was a part of the club, and my shriveled little heart breaks thinking that I won’t be there anymore, and things will just continue like I was never there, because people are fickle and life just goes on.
So this week, acting class came and went, this time without me. And I don’t want to be there, don’t get me wrong, I shouldn’t be there; I am craving solitude and quiet so that I can figure out what the fuck I want… but it is a melee inside my brain of does anyone even notice that I’m gone? and when will I know that I’m done with acting? and if I’m done, what will I do with my life? and will people judge me if I’m done? and will I judge me if I’m done? and why can’t I write like I usually can? and why is everything so fucking hard now? and how do I know if my dog is happy enough? and are my friends annoyed at me because I’ve become such a downer? and am I ever going to meet someone again? and what will I do if I don’t? and am I selfish for wishing for good things for myself? and would I feel this way if I had never left home? and would I feel this way if I tried for a different kind of life? and am I going to feel this way forever? And suddenly what I’m carrying becomes so unbearably heavy, so sad and so cumbersome that I realize I have stopped caring if I ever get answers to any of it, that I would trade it all for just a little moment of peace.
So, the mug cake. Just a little bit of flour, and some sugar and an egg and milk and you just stir that shit up in a coffee mug and nuke it for two minutes and, ta-dah, cake. Now, I know, a mug cake does not fix your school picture. A mug cake cannot put your shattered bottle back together again. A mug cake cannot give me answers about my life, cannot cure my depression, cannot make me feel less lonely, cannot make hard goodbyes any easier. But a sweet little mug cake, that probably doesn’t taste very good once it cools down, but is long gone before then so it doesn’t really matter, when eaten properly in the quiet of one’s home with a movie on in the background (not sad-as-shit, do not eat while watching the movie adaptation of Island of the Blue Dolphins) well, that’s got some power all its own.
There was nothing I could do to fix the fact that you cried in your school picture today. And I don’t know what to do with my fractured little life. But, tonight, I made a tiny little cake in a mug, and I ate it for dinner while watching Never Been Kissed. It was a peace of cake.