Sleep is the poor man’s dinner.
—Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers
Glowing screens and interfaces surrounded me in the darkened. How did I never notice before that vending machines contained food? Bizzare concoctions that had never before interested me now had my full attention: sloppy joes in miniature bread bowls (microwaveable!), chocolate tacos (now with dairy-based filling!), and triple-layered mystery meat (being mysterious is considered an attractive quality, right?) sandwiches could only represent the apex of human civilization.
I had come to this cursed room to prepare my breakfast in the tiny microwave: pine needle tea in a saltwater infusion. I found it on Pinterest!
No, not really.
I refilled the Pyrex liquid measuring cup that had become my best friend up again and replaced the pine needles I’d chomped savagely for a bit (to release the flavor/nutrients) and decided I needed to get more calories than the microscopic amount present in my drink. I whipped out my container of FishFood. This mealy substance is not actually fish food, but the ground-up, dried berries of the scarlet firethorn bush. Despite the shrub’s sweet name, the berries are pretty bland in fall and plain awful in winter. I’d discovered the dehydrated berries lying around my apartment months ago and used my metate y mano I conveniently have lying around to grind them into a coarse flour. The resulting mix smelled vaguely like the golden standard for aquariums everywhere, so FishFood it became.
I only have one container of it, and while it’s generally used for emergencies I decided a handful in my pine-needle tea might make a fine breakfast porridge. I put a few spoonfuls into my measuring cup, added some needles for flavor, and nuked it for a few minutes. As I waited, my eyes fell once again upon the shiny, entrancing vending machines. No. I won’t do it! Wait, what on earth is THAT?
said the white lettering simply.
That… that sounds amazing.
I stared closer, and then began to cry quietly as I saw it: No strawberry cheetos were these. A closer inspection of the red plastic package entombed behind a glass force field revealed it to be the pathetic
So disappointing. But why was I crying? As I wiped the tears from my face with my sleeve, it occurred to me. Even if the mythical snack was here right now, I would not be able to eat it. It was useless to me.
Trying to move on, I sampled my hot firethorn porridge. It was watery and nothing like the processed deep-fried corn strawberry dusted goodness I craved. Whatever. I left the building and made it to a place where I could use the internet to blog. More time passed than I expected, and it was quickly 2 PM. I was tired, and very hungry. So much for FishFood.
Fortunately, I had tons and tons of walnuts. I had found these one day in the city when I was helping film some extra shots for a Vidangel commercial. You know the one where they blast a family with 3,192 paintballs in five and a half seconds? Yep, that one. Fun fact: my left hand is insufferably pretentious and you can see it getting its long-awaited comeuppance at 0:53 in the commercial. Unfortunately, the left hand also got the upper hand and is now exponentially more famous than the rest of me. Truly, the right hand knoweth not what the left doeth.
Even if the mythical snack was here right now, I would not be able to eat it. It was useless to me.
But I digress. Walnuts, walnuts, walnuts. I must have gathered fifty pound of them in the dusty lot where my hand got its claim to fame.
I brought a bag of this with me on my adventure, chose a nice spot for a picnic, and decided to eat walnuts for the next four hours. While this was happening, I was busy heating up acorn meal with water in nearby microwaves in an attempt to get rid of the pesky chemicals that make raw acorns inedible/have the ability to tan leather.
When I finally stopped eating walnuts, I was tired. Also, despite my constant shelling and chowing it didn’t feel as if I’d eaten anything at all. My stomach punched my diaphragm repeatedly, as if trying to say Hey you up there! Whenever you want you can start sending food down. Don’t hold off on my account, amirite?
Ungrateful loser.Trying to stay positive, I went to go check on the acorns’ progress.
They were still bitter. Hopelessly astringent, consuming them now would only block the nutrient uptake of the things I’d eaten. I tried to drink more water to take the edge off the hunger, so much I felt nauseous and almost gagged.
No. No no no no no no no. I am NOT losing my entire day’s calories for this.
I walked over to a couch and lay down, staring at the ceiling. I had pounds of acorns, but I didn’t know how to make them edible in time. I had walnuts, but they seemed to be costing me more energy than they stubbornly yielded. I had glue berries, but—eurgh, no way. I was surrounded by food but didn’t see how I could get it to sustain me for three more days. There was no abundance here, just the hollow illusion of plenty.
Just then, a lady walked to the microwaves with cups in hand.
“Oh!” I said. “So sorry, I have something in those.”
“In both of them?”
“Yes, sorry, let me move that.” I pulled out the bowl of submerged acorn meal, the water colored brown by the bitter tannic acids. She asked me what I was doing, she looked at me suspiciously, and informed me she was writing a book regarding an LDS perspective on autism. Here it was, in fact. Just proofreading the finished copy over the holidays, you know?
“I take it you know someone with autism personally?”
“Oh no, no. Nothing like that. But I have a system!”
That she did. Also, many pages and a flowchart. Flowcharts are science, right? I hope she accomplishes what she desires with her book.
Bidding her farewell, I added one last round of hot liquid to my acorn meal and glumly walked through the dark to Ashanandra’s house where yesterday’s kefir was culturing. I learned how to make a new batch and decided the result of the previous day looked delicious. But useless, at least until Friday.
The temperature was rapidly dropping into the single digits, and I was hungry and cold. The weather was forecasted to drop down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.7 C) and I was not nutritionally prepared for the experience. I returned to my apartment and ate two slabs of glue berry jelly with mugs of steaming salt water. I microwaved the jelly in the hope that hot glue jelly would be better than cold. It wasn’t.
My roommates MacGyver and Aang were there, though. Aang informed me tonight was his last night in the apartment before he moved his stuff in preparation for basic training. He has been a kind, considerate, and altogether awesome roommate for the last eight months, so we’re definitely going to miss him. Speaking with Aang and MacGyver rallied my spirits. It might be cold, but—no, it would still be cold, but I probably wouldn’t die. Probably. Trying to avoid this outcome, I plunked myself down at the kitchen table and ate walnuts for almost two more hours.
I exited the apartment and headed off to Cloudreach. On the way, I encountered a herd of walking sausages. The deer looked up at me.
Um, excuse me, we don’t know if you noticed but—
Well, the place you call Cloudreach, it’s sort of the place we sleep so we don’t freeze and die.
“Well, you should have sort of thought about that before you became stinking deer!”
Pity. Hmm. Since you feel that way about it—
Movement, in the trees and shrubs all around me. It was fixin’ to become an ambush. They say deer are herbivorous, but since I’ve never seen Them I wasn’t about to start taking their word for it now. This had to end, and fast. Brandishing the third coat I was carrying as a weapon, I whipped the air and stalked forward.
“This mah place now, BOIIIII!” Startled, their pitiful uprising scattered into the bushes from whence it had arisen.
Tonight, at least, Cloudreach would be safe.
Day Five was complete.
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