For a while we made spring rolls. Gary brought spring rolls, Chelsea brought spring rolls, Judith brought spring rolls. I’d bring them too. We all did. They were just a little different at first, but became more complicated as we tried to top each other: fresh jalapeño, unpasteurized miso, chili oil, chinkiang vinegar, lotus root, tomatillos, Thai basil, carrots cut into butterfly-shapes. Greg made one with Japanese mushrooms from a fruit stand downtown. Kayla fried garlic in peanut oil. Becca made her own cream cheese. It was ridiculous. We sat together on the floor because no one owned more than three chairs, each of us with something like forty dollars worth of stuff on our plates. It was more than ridiculous. It was unsettling. I felt unsettled, with a plate of goddamn cold-smoked quinoa rolls at a potluck. But I forgot that feeling when I sat down with the group, because when I sat I mostly wondered where Lisa’s quiet came from.
Months earlier she was boisterous. We took turns putting dishes on her head: five, six, seven plates all balanced on her crown. Her eyes flickered, rolling back and forth until the plates toppled, but she caught the pile so that not a single plate broke.
And I was puzzled that she asked, “What are we doing?” It was before the potluck. We were lying in a park. It was a moment like when you huck a stone across a gorge and it clacks against the foot of the opposite cliff: a moment that solidifies distance, that says the space that exists between two points.
“Hanging out?” I said.
Lisa’d worked at a sushi place. A tupperware of tightly-wrapped spring rolls sat in her bag on the grass between us, just as the sloppily-wrapped rolls on my plate sat in their rustling green grocery bag. When I’d put my spring rolls together I hadn’t played music, because no music I played seemed to sate what my ears craved, and it seemed like there was a sheet of distorting plastic between myself and the actions of my hands.
“We should go.”
I’m a little worried about sharing all of this… vanity, I guess. But I think sometimes you have to share in spite of reservations, when sharing makes you look bad. I try to believe that.
It was a cold May. On cheap night Lisa and I went to see Melancholia after the potluck. And, well, afterwards I asked if she’d let me go down on her.
“Sure,” she said.
I sometimes wonder if I’ll arrive at a point in my life when silence is less painful, understanding more complete, messes less inevitable. She shrugged off her pants and sat down on the couch. No kisses. Lisa’s hands were small and the joy I felt nuzzling her came from those small hands turning rings in my hair. That was all the affection she showed. And I was on my knees, on the floor of her living room.
I cut through the cold park on my way back. My teeth chattered. I passed one man in a brown jacket. A silvery bread bag dangled from one hand, the other hand buried in a pocket. He nodded as he walked by. I realized that he was coming from the grocery store. The potluck was tomorrow and I wouldn’t have time to get groceries and I didn’t have the stuff I needed except rice paper, but it didn’t end up mattering. Summer was looming. It brought with it the ‘slider’. At first I just wanted to use up the rice paper I’d accumulated but I kept buying rice paper and making spring rolls even though everyone else brought tiny burgers. Spring rolls became expected of me.
Lisa’s quiet left her. She got boisterous again. She balanced objects on top of her head.
I wish I could say this was a love story but it really wasn’t, it was just something that passed incidentally between two people. Since then I haven’t been able to shake the sense that’s all that really happens: incidents coursing between, and sometimes they converge and sometimes they don’t.