The Body Is an Object
We grow marijuana in the summer and smoke it in the winter. It turns out it’s a lot of work to grow good pot, but we offset the difficulty of harvesting by hiring friends to come up from the city and help. They like the extra money, and we enjoy their company, seeing their tents out the window over the sink, if only for a few weeks.
Some nights I stand outside the cabin, staring at the stars. It’s lonely out here. I know that Venus has set. I think that that one orange-twinkling star might be Mars. There are only a handful of rocky chunks circling our sun, each impossible to reach. The distance to the next sun is unfathomable. How big the universe is, with its trillions of stars in their little clusters. How big the world itself, and us all spread across the surface. Why are Annie and me a couple? Fate seems cruelly deterministic right about now, and I dig my bare feet into the cool soil.
I want to fuck Carolina. She’s Jasper’s friend; I’m not sure if they were a couple at some point. I don’t know why, but it’s just been burning through my head since they came up to trim for us. Her round cheeks, wide hips, big butt, her belly. I edge around her in the kitchen, and I feel her life force right there up against me. Nothing happens, but I smell her fruity cologne and she is a whole other world. I get turned on, making my toast as she washes out her mate cup next to me, and I have to take myself into the bathroom, splash cold water on my face.
It feels so animal, this lust. I hate it, and I’ve been thinking about these long conversations my friend Zebulon and I had in college. He was really into Buddhism, and he argued that sex always leads to objectification. Seeing others as objects. As opposed to what, I’d ask him, floating little spheres of light? The body is an object. I’ve already forgetten what I wrote my senior thesis about.
In the cabin, there’s a wood fire going all winter. In fall I call the guy from the phone book and he backs his dump truck up the driveway and deposits two cords of wood right there, a blend of tanoak and madrone. The madrone burns hot. It feels good to have a fire going at night, when it’s windy outside and we’re together in bed.
I whisper, “I love you.”
She hums back to me and snuggles her face into my back. I love being the little spoon, being held.
When our friends are here to help harvest we always try to cook them nice food. One night I make dal and Persian rice, which has cinnamon sticks and cloves and bay leaves and black peppercorns and cardamom pods mixed in to make it fragrant. Everyone loves Persian rice, and when I make it I imagine going to Iran someday. Everything, someday. For now we’ve got our place, my office converted into a drying room. I’ve blacked out the windows with plastic, and I keep a space heater and a fan running 24/7. Ideally you keep the readout on the little thermometer at fifty percent humidity, seventy degrees Fahrenheit. You only learn so much in this life, and I’ve learned how to bring in a marijuana harvest. Later we’ll put blue nitrile gloves back on to do the final trim, taking the little five-point leaf sprouts off the crystal-heavy buds.
Annie adopted a dog from the shelter, a lab mix she’s calling Soot. I’m not sure the name will stick, just as I’m not sure I like being part of a family with a dog. For one, I get a lot less of the bed at night. For two, the dog needs endless walks. It would actually be nice if we walked the dog together—it feels like we haven’t been spending quality time together lately, which bothers me. Instead I usually end up taking the dog on a long evening walk, alone. The dog and I walk down the driveway till we hit the dirt road. Usually we turn right and walk forever past the neighbors’ driveways, sometimes choking on the dust kicked up by somebody’s Subaru. Oftentimes it’s brutally windy, and I feel the warmth being blown off my skin. I don’t like the way the tops of the trees dance in the wind. The wind doesn’t seem to bother Soot, whom I’ve taken to calling Galoot.
Last spring money got tight after we splurged on a new truck, so I got a waiting job at a fancy restaurant just outside of town. I’d always listen to the same album, filled with noise and menace and sadness, on my way there. When I got home, I’d make myself a vodka gimlet and then another. I kept the waiting job into the summer, because it felt good for our relationship for us not to be cooped up together all the time. Later I realized that Annie just felt more trapped, at home in our cabin waiting for me with Soot.
I think I’m just like Pavlov’s dog, only instead of salivating my eyes fill up with tears when I hear the music I used to drive to work listening to. After I’d gotten tipsy on gimlets, Annie would poke her head out from under the covers, train her green eyes on me. Say, “Get in here right now.”
The taste of the dusty roads is so delicious; I want this life never to end. My days are separated into two halves. In the first, I’m tying branches to bamboo stakes and big-leafing in the garden, or hauling soil, or working on the irrigation system. The second starts when we reach the T where the dirt road butts into the county road, and we come to a full stop, and our dust plume catches up and overtakes us. I taste the chalky, earthy grit, put the car in first, and peel out down the road.
Town is so much fun after you’ve got a few beers in you. We’re always putting some dollars in the jukebox, dancing together. It feels good. Back at home, we lie naked under the comforter, holding each other, so warm and safe. She never wants to kiss or have sex, just to hold and be held, and I lose my mind with hardness until I fall asleep.
Annie likes smoking pot more than I do, but that’s because she really likes smoking pot. She’s in charge of grinding the pot in the grinder, and I roll the joints. We use the kind of brown papers that are made out of hemp. It’s a cottage industry up here to celebrate the pot plant. Did you know the Constitution was written on hemp? The rigging on the Pequod was all hemp rope. Probably the guys down at the Sign of the Whale would take it hook-line-sinker if you told them Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake.” What she said, in French of course, was, “Let them eat sprouted hemp seed bread.” The papers do burn clean, and it’s a sort of use-the-whole-plant thing. Anyways, Annie will put three or four joints away in a day if you don’t stop her, and I’m not an asshole, I’m not going to tell her what to do.
Usually we end up watching some shows, and I make popcorn. Popcorn tastes so good when you’re high. I look at the actors and think about how weird it is that I’ll never get to know them. With the pretty girl who wouldn’t talk to you in middle school you at least knew how she smelled. These screen people are so remote, but at the same time you see more of them than you do your real friends. There’s this one female cop that I want so badly to have sex with, to take off her uniform, to feel her tight little body.
I take these terribly long showers. When I’m on my own, I watch weird porn on the internet and lay in bed for hours. In moments of real desperation, I just sit on the toilet with the seat cover down, trying to get it over with.
Once their stay is up, I drive Jasper and Carolina back to the city. I drop Jasper off first and then Carolina gives me directions to her place. I like driving in the city. Down here, it pays to be a little aggressive. We’re quiet, and I realize that in some ways I regret my stupid crush I’ve had on Carolina. I think it’s gotten in the way of us getting to be tight friends. As she sits in the passenger seat of the truck, looking across the bay at the wall of fog, I realize that she probably doesn’t have the first clue that I like her.
But then we get to her co-op. Stucco and succulents and a roommate sleeping on the couch. She invites me into her room, puts some Ethiopian jazz on. We smoke a joint, and then she dances a little bit. Takes my hand, closes the door.
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