chapter one: i fucking hate nature. we have had a contentious relationship since the summer of 1987. i was in some special summer camp for dorks that involved neither 1 athleticism nor 2 outdoor social activity. we sat in a darkened classroom with no air conditioning, learning about fish and whales without ever having to be near any, eating lunch quietly at our desks while reading and going home at 2pm to sit quietly in our bedrooms doing 100% voluntary summer homework.
my grandmother grew kale and collard greens in the garden alongside her house. i didn’t have a plump warm grandmother who smelled like warm chocolate chip cookies and fresh laundry. nope, my gram was skinny and mean and ashed her cigarettes in the pan while frying sardines in it and once killed a rabbit with a slingshot as it was trying to feed itself on her plants. on second thought, that shit wasn’t even a garden as much as it was a “section of the yard where plants kind of grew.” during the summer of 1987 my gram made me eat that kale, tough and flavorless as it was, before sending me off to nerd camp with even more in my lunchbox. i shit my pants that day, viscous dark green goo pooling in my underpants before running down the length of my pants (i am a person who wears pants in the summertime) and exploding onto my shoes because most of the bathrooms were closed during vacation for repair. i had to walk home on a ninety-degree day in sticky corduroys i had to rinse out in a drinking fountain in my goddamned underwear. my gram and her dirty fucking kale are the reason you're going to find me frozen to death in my apartment under the industrial air conditioner some future july. fuck summer.
chapter two: i am a nice friend. cherry picking is not my idea of a fun time. i might cancel on dinner once or twice but if i love you and you need a bitch to help fuck your ex-boyfriend's new car up then yes i will get out of bed and help. i love my goddamned friends and there isn't anything i wouldn't do for one of them. so when kate asked me to get up at dawn on a sunday to drive three hours to michigan and pick fruit on some bonding type shit i angrily said, HOE ARE YOU NUTS WHO THE FUCK WOULD EVER WANT TO DO THAT. and then i felt bad and was like, fine but we are stopping at a motherfucking cracker barrel.
chapter three: the construction on 94 will fuck your whole shit up. i’m not about to go into a whole big thing because it was infuriating and google maps can suck a huge d, but if you are traveling to michigan from chicago there is an unmarked turn to continue going east that if you miss you will be re-routed right back into illinois and you will say dumb shit like, “there are significantly fewer trees than i expected” and “why hasn’t the time changed yet?” before you realize that you are in MOTHERFUCKING AURORA WHERE THERE IS NOT A SINGLE CHERRY TREE TO BE FOUND and then you will resort to asking siri how to get there and then almost wither and die in shame as the first thirty seconds of connecting your GPS is just that insufferable bitch laughing at you.
chapter four: two hours a slave. i could feel the burning stares of slack-jawed rural white people confused by my modern asymmetrical haircut as soon as we got out of the car. “YES, WE ARE BIG CITY LESBIANS,” i announced to all of the jc penney elastic-waisted slacks in berrien county. “WE HAVE COME TO AVAIL OURSELVES TO YOUR MANY QUAINT AND CHARMING LOCAL CUSTOMS.” after registering the car with a charming milkmaid and declining her offer to sign up for the pit-spitting championship, we drove a winding series of dusty gravel roads out to the cherry orchards. “this is just like the grapes of wrath” i said to kate as a man with dusty overalls and a handful of teeth handed us large pails for our cherries. i smiled at him the way you smile at people you feel kind of bad for, and he smiled at me the way you smile when you still call people nigger. WITH THE -ER.
i should have done some motherfucking research. the easily accessible low-hanging fruit had already been snatched off by children and crafty wildlife, so we basically had to fight through the branches and stand on tiptoe to reach whatever was left. or take our chances with one of the rickety ladders sprinkled across the orchard. but i wasn't trying to be black with a broken fucking neck in michigan backcountry. we dragged ourselves up and down row after row of nearly naked trees under the punishing summer sun, our buckets heavy with tart red cherries, the only ones that survived the harsh winter. which means we couldn't even fucking eat what we picked. erase from your mind the image of us city mice feasting on fat, succulent cherries, our faces and shirts stained with their sweet juice. from tree to tree we soldiered on, for hours, filthy and sweating and bent at the waist from hauling the weight of our inedible spoils. "this feels like slavery," i grumbled to a bee hovering dangerously close as i tried to shake cherries loose from their branches without any white people seeing me. i starting humming "lift every voice and sing" softly under my breath. then that racist asshole bee stung me in the fucking face.
chapter five: i did not get to go to cracker barrel. when i decided i'd had e-goddamned-nough of those fucking cherries we dragged our buckets to the weighing station where i was shocked to learn that the most calories i have burned in a year yielded a little over fourteen pounds of sickly-looking bruised berries. i for real thought dude was going to be like, "thirty-seven pounds!" and we would win a prize or some shit. i couldn't believe that all that hard ass work had barely met the minimum amount you can take home. HELEN WEIGHS MORE THAN FOURTEEN FUCKING POUNDS AND SHE IS A CAT. i almost cried.
we sloshed our cherries around in these huge fucking sinks and picked out all of the leaves and dirt i accidentally got in my bucket because picking cherries is totally fucking harder than you think it is, then watched this teenage girl load them into a giant pitting machine as we stood underneath it trying to catch what came flying out. now is probably a good time to mention that i was wearing flip flops and what i had worn to the club the night before and that all of these items were now freezing and soaking wet. plus the top was sheer so BOOBS. we drove back to the registration building to pay for these cherries we were never going to eat and get me a bottle of fresh apple cider. i also purchased: apple butter, fancy toasted peanuts, sweet cherries we could actually eat in the car, and other assorted bric-a-brac michigan stuff. you know, a live deer and whatnot.
i had not accounted for the holiday weekend, for all of our fellow illinoisans who would clog the deconstructed highways with their mountain bikes and their jet skis, anxious to get back to chicago before nightfall to get ready for the week ahead. it took us four hours to get home. four motherfucking hours to circle the lake to get back to the good side where there are shiny new hospitals and cafes you can take your dog to. OH AND BLACK PEOPLE. we were not stopping for an honest-to-goodness homecooked country meal. i was robbed. also, july 6 was national fried chicken day and i spent it in a field cutting my fingers and slap boxing pissed off insects to pick food i didn't even want to eat. that is not what rosa parks sat down for.
chapter six: i am never leaving my apartment ever again. i made a cherry crisp with one bee-stung eye swollen shut while maxing a popeyes three-piece mild. SEE YOU IN NOVEMBER.
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