I begin with putting on makeup for Thanksgiving dinner. San Diego at my parents’ house in that near-apocalypse feeling fall of 2015. Gold dust across eyelids. Gold sparkle at crease. Burgundy lipstick. CC Cream. The Porefessional smeared and glopped. Full contouring. Strobing from a Sephora highlighter palette. Black mascara. Clinch of eyelash curler.
This holiday season is made more poignant with the fact that I do not know if this is the last time that I will see my family before the apocalypse. WWIII broke two weeks prior. Paris was hit by terrorist attacks. I watched CNN numb with terror all night long as bombs fell over Syria. I watched from my couch as the US was threatened. Obama addressed the people at the G-20 Summit. The drums of war beat loud in my ears.
I did witchcraft for peace in my shuttered apartment at dawn that morning. I googled spells for world peace because the Internet can answer all questions. I found some good ones. I drew a circle with incense and salt water. Invoked the elementals at the four quarters. Sprinkled salt on the ground. Stood in it anointing my eyes, neck, breasts and ankles with an Elizabeth and James “Nirvana” rollerball. A pale blue chime candle with the word, “AMBITIONZ” engraved in it blazed from my altar.
On my altar a stone paving slab sits adop a gold and silver ornamented navy cloth. On the slab is a small cauldron surrounded by a circle of pebbles with runes written on them in sharpie. Surrounding the cauldron on the slab is a bell. A Queen Mary shot glass full of kosher salt. A piece of obsidian. A picture of myself held down with a peacock stone. A dried rose. Two day of the dead brides that were a wedding present. A wooden hand covered in Milagros. A trail of severed and saved acrylic nails in silver, black, nude, and red. The acrylic tips carry my DNA in the strips of real nail welded to fake. They are a gory talisman.
Next to the slab on the left like a place setting is a sprig of dried Rosemary from the plant that died on the back porch. To the right a wand that is actually a vaporizer pen and a jar labeled “FAERIE PORTAL” on a Lost Angelene business card. A skull goblet used with the athame in simulation of the great rite sits like a glass to the place setting. In the top left and right corners are Catholic prayer candles representing the Horned God as a black Saint Martin of Porres and the Goddess as the Virgin Mary.
At dawn two weeks before Thanksgiving I raised both hands in a leather corset and my dress witch hat. Said, “Beings and powers of the visible and invisible, depart in peace. You aid in my work, whisper in my mind, and bless me from the Otherworld and there is harmony between us. The circle is cleared.”
I tried magic out of desperation. It is a tool in my arsenal. I don’t know if it works, but it was all I could think of to do. I am a witch. A witch that starved the week before Thanksgiving. I am hungry as I put on makeup at my parent’s house. I could eat a child but witches don’t really do that.
I spent the previous week afraid to leave my apartment because I didn’t know if the world existed as I had left it outside after that long dark night of the soul. I subsisted on what I had named “The Anne Frank Diet.” My explanation as to why I was so thin that Thanksgiving. I only had a packet of smoked almonds and coffee in my pantry when the war broke out.
Finally, I left my apartment to go to the dentist and fix the gum infection in my molar that was causing so much pain in chewing that I was afraid I would not be able to eat Thanksgiving dinner. I tweeted joyfully, “Experimental ventures into the outside world today have reassured me that it is still spinning and it’s still business as usual in LA. YAY!!”
Always now, the juxtaposition of gluttony and fear. I reassured my mother I was still coming to Thanksgiving via text. Used the words “fascism,” and “apocalypse survival plans” in the same comment as Thanksgiving plans. Shit was getting real.
In my parent’s guest bathroom in San Diego I put on the burgundy velvet plunge back ice skater dress that I bought at American Apparel with my boyfriend a few weeks ago on a rainy fall day. I put on a silver chain bracelet. A rose gold two-finger ring that spells HATE. Another two-finger ring covered in black stones. I tweet, “When the bombs and apocalypse comes and the alien archaeologists find my corpse many years later it will be festooned with jewelry.”
My mother asks me not to wear the HATE ring to Thanksgiving dinner as there is so much hate in the world right now already. So I take it off and set it on the marble counter top. The HATE ring belonged to my dead wife. I wear it now for her, but not tonight.
When I leave the upstairs bathroom at my parents house my face is sparkling luminescent like a Christmas tree ball from all of the contouring. I trot downstairs in rose gold heels.
I set out a wooden platter of ricotta and roasted tomato crostini, stilton and crackers and a silver bowl of salted mixed nuts on the ochre-clothed buffet table in the kitchen. The kitchen walls are eighties brown and blue wallpaper. The floor is orange and brown tile.
Never-lit candles of a Native American man and woman and a turkey decorate the buffet. My mother asked the day before if the candles were offensive. I told her, “No. They are respectful representations, not grotesque caricatures.”
The doorbell rings. My father’s friend Karen arrives, red-faced in high heeled boots with her husband and mother Kathy in tow. My boyfriend returns from Thanksgiving at his brother’s. My father’s white-bearded “crazy cousin Mark” arrives last.
I hear from the kitchen my father talking over red wine in the living room. Uproariously he tells Mark, who is bipolar, that he has been dubbed, “crazy cousin Mark,” and I who am Schizoaffective am self-identifying as “crazy cousin Andrea.” I wince. I hope Mark does not find this bluntness cruel. Holidays are all about being put on the spot. We come together and feel our pain. There is always that one relative who speaks the unspeakable over cocktails.
My mother takes the turkey out of the oven. Sets it on the brown grout between white tile counter. We have been brining the 20 lb. turkey for two days in apple cider, star anise, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, brown sugar, cilantro and cinnamon sticks. Roasted it for four hours brushed with butter and basted with apple cider. Three sliced Granny Smith apples rest at the bottom of the roasting pan under the grill. Now the apples are cooked into a brown sludge that I spoon out into a silver bowl and serve as chutney.
My mother turns to me over the turkey and says, “If the apocalypse happens, sweetie, it won’t matter if you have canned food and water. You will just be dead when the bomb hits. It’s okay. Don’t stress over keeping survival food. Sure, it’ll help if you’re just stranded for a few days. But if it’s the end it’s the end.”
My father carves the turkey. White and dark meat fall onto a platter. I take out of the oven and set on the buffet a bowl of spinach, fennel, and sausage stuffing with toasted brioche, twice-baked sweet potatoes and green beans with roasted nuts and cranberries. A cut glass dish of fig and cranberry compote awaits. Jewel-like red and purple tone in the cranberries. I take a paper towel off of the mixed greens and mandarin salad.
I planned on making a bacon-wrapped fig salad but we ran around five grocery stores looking for figs before deciding that there were no figs available in the whole San Diego metro area. Fiddling while Rome burns caring about a fig shortage in Whole Foods while there was a war on. I chide myself then embrace it. It’s all I can do.
Suitably lubricated with red wine the guests shuffle into the kitchen to fill their white china plates. Having my first sober Thanksgiving ever I have had wineglass after wineglass of cranberry Martinelli’s along with those who don’t drink (Mark) and those who go to AA but are having red wine with dinner anyway (Kathy).
My father sits at the head of the table. My mother at the foot. A line of silver forks and knives down each side. We eat and try not to talk about politics but of course the conversation eventually sways that way. I try to avoid talking about Hillary Clinton with Kathy. I try to avoid talking about what I do in Los Angeles with my father’s doctor friend who shows up over pumpkin pie. I say, “I’m a writer and artist. Poetry, novels, essays on the Internet,” as my eyes dip over empty plates. Avoiding his piercing gaze.
The inevitable awkward holiday questions of the evening are for the most part not directed at me and for that I am thankful. Kathy and Karen are reminded by my lawyer father that they used to be homeless. “Of course she doesn’t want to talk about it,” I tell my father later over the dishes. My father’s friend arrives with his second post-divorce girlfriend with which he is on his third date. My father introduces Mark to them as the man who spent time in a Kuala Lumpur psych ward. After dinner when they have left I say, “Stressful third date, but she handled it gracefully.” I take Klonopin and Trileptal from behind my hand.
When it is all over I smoke a solitary bowl on the balcony I used to climb down to sneak out when I was a teenager. It begins to rain. I feel the cold rain on my face while I exhale marijuana smoke. If the world ends, at least we have these moments.
That night, I tweet from the bed beside my sleeping boyfriend, “#Thanksgiving high jinx this year included casual racism, a clogged toilet, awkward questions, fabulous food, group selfies, and 3rd dates.” My boyfriend rolls over, shuffles in his sleep. I tweet in leopard print footie pajamas with stomach full, “Well, my bloody carnivorous celebration of genocide was as festive as it could be, given the strange circumstances of #Thanksgiving.” In the calm before the storm, we sleep.