A Bug, A Jolt

The middle of the night is four o’clock in the morning. It’s a fuzzy time to wake up, often accompanied by a sense of tremendous joy or overwhelming anxiety as I’m pulled from the edge of a barely remembered dream. It is one thing to float out of sleep still cresting on the thoughts of my dreaming life. It is another to be dragged from sleep by a two year old crying out for her juice.

We don’t usually give Luci juice. There isn’t much nutritional value in it, though there is a lot of sugar. “Once you start with the apple juice,” my mother told me, “you’ll never hear the end of it.” So Luci drinks water instead. She’s especially taken with seltzer.

Juice, in this case, is what we call Pedialyte. The doctor recommended it for an extra measure of hydration, since Luci has a stomach bug. I don’t know why we started calling it juice. There’s no real fruit in the sickly sweet electrolyte syrup mixture. My mother, an advocate of health food before it became a trend, became inspired during her last visit, adding half a Pedialyte popsicle to the almost full sippy cup, turning Luci’s juice into a fancy cocktail. It’s the only way she’ll drink it now. At this point I don’t care, as long as she stays hydrated.

As Luci continued to cry for her drink, I got out of bed, shushing slippered feet across the living room rug and into the kitchen. I did not turn on the light. My aim was to fill the sippy cup, watch her indulge, then crawl back to bed, back into whatever dreams I’d been having. I believe I knit ideas in my sleep, as well as untangle problems that feel knotted like delicate necklaces. I’m both knitting and unknotting every night.

I opened the refrigerator and reached for the Pedialyte. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed one of the rose petals from the arrangement my husband gave me on Valentine’s Day had fallen to the counter. It was a large rose petal.

It began to move. 

Fully jolted out of sleep I screamed, as a bug the size of a baby lobster figure skated across the counter toward me. I ran to the corner by the stove, screaming louder. I don’t handle bugs well.

I took off a slipper, ready to pounce, before deciding I didn’t want bug guts embedded in the grooves on the bottom. Then I put my shoe back on and thought about making a run for it.

In my silence the bug retreated back toward the flowers, while my husband appeared to turn on the light. He remained calm. He knows me, he knew why I was screaming. He surprised me by smiling and commending my efforts to kill the bug. I didn’t explain my attempt was lame; I was just pleased he saw progress in my phobia.

The next morning I began cleaning out the kitchen. It wasn’t really dirty, and I have since learned that those stray waterbugs do not care about food, but I cleaned anyway. After sweeping crumbs from drawers and shelves, I emptied the freezer. I threw so many cold ingredients into a pot, making a soup from frozen noodles handmade at the Italian market across the street, a bag of vegetables, chicken breast on the bone, and cubes of stock. Over a high flame it thawed quickly, and soon it was bubbling away, beckoning.

I have perfected my system, the way I like to live. Food goes in, and words flow out. This is the way my body and mind have always functioned. I love sampling different textures and flavors, experimenting to see how a pinch of spice diminishes or perfects a dish. And writing, this has always come easily to me too.

Then I had my daughter, and whether it was a hormonal shift, or a mental one, something changed. Now the food still goes in, clinging to my hips and thighs in a way it never did, but the words don’t come out as easily.

I don’t believe you have to sacrifice one thing for another so I don’t understand, why am I am feeling stagnant in my work? This is what I have been trying to figure out out in my sleep. There is a connection, I am sure, to why many of the dishes I’ve made lately haven’t turned out perfectly. My snowy day cookies were too floury, the stir fry I made last week tasted round and not textured with the contrast of broccoli and chicken. Even the bits of garlic clinging to the top of the wok did not reward me with a crisp bite when I scraped them off. They were soft too, and I am frustrated.

So what did I do? I cleaned my kitchen, I cleaned my house. I made a soup of the leftovers, which turned into it’s own thing, and not just the separate ingredients that comprise it.

Maybe this bug, this jolt, was just what I needed to wake me up.

1 Comment on A Bug, A Jolt

  1. Lil
    March 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm (4 years ago)

    The jolt served an account of food, and dreams, and daily living and how each have purpose and interest. Serve me more!

Leave a Reply