I crumble into my decaf latte. Hands cross over book, under chin. Interaction, again. He recognized me from photos I probably shouldn't have taken. The negatives—Double entendres. I must breathe.
There is a certain quality to the air. Floating decayed memories. Holly berries mixed with fake-honey-flavored cigars. (High fructose.) Too much Tuaca, an old Nike tracksuit, and a lukewarm dissertation under a tarnished belt buckle. Esoteric tarot warnings. Thrift store ghosts. Freemasonry via AA. Distinct blur. Out-of-tune guitar. The nostalgia of vomit. Ashes. Malnourishment. Hour-old cum. Distant car horns—Not distant enough.
HOW TO EAT SOUP SO PEOPLE LEAVE YOU
Do not, for the love of God, slurp.
First, obtain can of organic vegetable soup.
Check meticulously for dents as to avoid botulism—
If you're gonna die, you need a better method.
Put rubber microwavable cover slightly askew atop
as to allow airflow while preserving cover's purpose.
Microwave 1.5 minutes—Or until it explodes anyway
and you must stop it prematurely, utilize expletives,
then clean up—Whichever comes first.
Pick up too-hot bowl with cloth.
Take bite of disappointment because bowl
still burns your thumb, but soup is still cold.
Replace in microwave for 30 more seconds.
Remove from microwave as originally intended.
Stir with idle threats of, "You'd better be f-ing hot now—"
Take burning bites between Lamaze breaths like a pro
who's dealt with this baby way too many times before.
Eat delicious bites of soup.
Keep avoiding corn that now monopolizes bottom
Try to accept it.
Masticate longer; harder.
You're a goddamned champ.
Swallow lingering bites to the best of your ability.
Because after all that work, you're still hungry—
Corn casings left in mouth—
Nowhere to spit.
Carefully lick side of bowl until chewed-up casings
slide off tongue onto rim.
Do this with every remaining bite of corn.
It is sweet, but eating soup never committed you to Sensory Hell.
Repeat until there is no soup left, no rim to spare,
and everyone in your life has left you.
Shannon Clem (she/they) is an elusive creature rumored to reside with her progeny in California. Their unique flavor of neurodivergence has resulted in existential crises since '82. Their work is published or forthcoming in Versification, Rat's Ass Review, and elsewhere. She's fascinated by music, comedy, cryptozoology, TMNT, and the pollination process of figs.