Some Dry Season(ing)
Yuqing Liu (BFA SC 2022)
A person dropped me a bundle of enoki mushrooms on the street while I was putting down hand cream. The tip of my nose sensed their dryness, which wove with the landscape into an autumn scene. “Wet them (I think),” so their color—with just enough yellow from being white—led me to the beach, where the waves were staining the sand into mud instead of washing it clean. Knowing
among everything, mushroom types are the most subject to color change; every river is every water, from the black to the red sea through the yellow river; the purple cold of sea water would vessel from my hand to the mushroom, tinting them into some poisonous kind ——
Rationality flushed me away from the waves.
Of course I couldn’t use the city river: a huge concrete blackberry. I’ve spent nights slicing into it with the silent screams leaking from the cracks on my hands. Tonight I wait for petroleum to ooze out from the river, before climbing down to extract it and storing as much as I can in my mouth cavity to protect it from other foragers. Few drops of oil spill out from my lips and dredge through the leaks. There is no better ingredient for jam.
Someone had told me to not trust the appearance of streams, so I listened with my ears, and the two ears of every strand of hair of my body, navigating the real channel before arriving at the kitchen sink. The water faucet/a radio that spells out the names of mushrooms by gushing out b-a-b-y-b-e-l-l-a-baby-bella-s-h-i-i-t-a-k-e-shiitake-oyster-king-trumpet-portabella-truffle-chicken-white-button, like different kinds of myself escaping from a big grapefruit or a small morning subway. Dehydrated.
Looking at them I figured that unlike petroleum, mushrooms are best eaten raw: swallow them, open the sluice of my organs to discharge all my internal liquid to hydrate them. Enoki mushrooms penetrate my palm like a hedgehog of golden needles. No tissue fluid bleeds out as the mushrooms devour all my moisture.
I found a piece of paper dissolving on the street, writing that there is a place where enoki mushrooms, or 金针菇 in Mandarin, are true to name, clusters of golden needles. People use them to sew synthetic fabrics together, mainly polyester.
They do it in late July. Sitting around in a circle and sewing patches together with the golden needles, into a huge raincoat, all while praying for the god of water.
Recipe for petroleum jam:
720 ml fresh petroleum
250 grams of syrup
a pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a steel pot, simmer on medium heat without the lid on. Stir occasionally to prevent burning in the bottom. Turn off heat when you sense the desire to put it on bread. Store in air-tight containers.
I’d say they are also good to use as moisturizer if the syrup is replaced with an equal amount of coconut oil.
There isn’t much inside of this oak cabinet except for petroleum jam, exactly 280 jars of them, of 1.5 cups each. I’d say expect to use 2 to 3 jars per hour just like any other lubricant, but that also depends on our surface area. Counting and numbering lack quite some function other than for repeating and remembering so I should just hand you a jar. As the lid unseals, the memories that had dissolved into the smell of stewed petroleum drive into and congest your forehead: the glossy textbooks from foreign countries that no one likes; picnic date with desk mate canceled when walking across the churning chestnut stall because she needs to study for physics; uncle’s old Santana, many many of the green and shyly glittery beetles like Santanas, dragging themselves through mid-summer . . . The sun had crisped and burned their glassy wings. I was left in the backseat, worrying that uncle’s smoking would light the gas station, distracting myself from imagining/assuming petroleum—bruised apricot left in her desk drawer—rosin collected that sister swallowed, but still chewing—melting snails that are already melted, leaving an empty shell ready to be charged with more fluid. Years later in Providence’s Shell petroleum revealed itself to me as looking water-like. Santana and uncle lost all their stickiness, slipped away with the marching surface runoff. Fortunately I discovered that jam-making caramelizes and condenses petroleum.
I massage the jam in through our skin our scalp our nails. As we are saturated like slugs or a rehydrated seaweed, I’m prepared to slither through the new structures, new rooms, new sealing rubbers that are too brand new to receive me. The residue that drips down dries and clogs the cabinet with yellow crystals.
5 Tales in an Embryo Room
An unrenovated and unfurnished room, the walls and floor are still in concrete; we shall call it an embryo room for its brutal nudity and purity. There is a glass window on the left side of the room, with no window screen to cover it. In the middle of the room sits a light grey sofa.
1. There are 57 bees in the room
57 bees tried to break the window. The window was not as fragile and delicate as described by some glass artists. 6 of the bees had their wings cracked or split. The 13th bee landed on the sofa and found pollen in the intervals of woven textiles. The 13th bee started to feast.
The unwounded 50 bees followed. They tempered both their will and their mouth muscles so they could dig deeper into the sofa. The 51 bees started to build a hive. Though 4 of the 6 injured bees had starved to death, the remaining 2 sustained until the hive structure had expanded enough to reach their mouth. They turned their heads to suck honey. 1 of them did not like the taste of sofa and decided to fast itself to death. The other was soon pressed dead, suffocated from the many hexagons that grew, more and more, on top of the final bee.
The room, except for the untainted sofa-shaped space, was completely saturated with combs. Could we still call it a room when it is solid?
An average-height girl walked in and began chewing on honey and combs, little by little, top to bottom to middle to bottom to top. By the time she reached the sofa’s edge, she was perfectly tired and decided to take a nap. When she was awake she couldn’t open her eyelids—the bees had built hives upon and around her. The girl was stuck in the hexagon candies with a very full stomach.
Another girl never found her. She wandered everywhere in the city, asking if anyone had seen a girl who likes to eat honey.
2. There is a lake of honey on the floor
Visitors and tourists were attracted to the spectacle ever since the discovery. The window was turned into a ticket window, and there was no discount price for children, students, or elderly. 10 dollars per head we are a formal institution you can not exchange romance with an entry please go to the souvenir shop on the other side to purchase the print of your photo with the lake. (The sofa was, of course, prohibited to touch for the sake of protection.) The effacement of attraction came in a not very short time. A girl walked in, laid and bathed in the lake amid their oblivion.
3. There are 5 honey puddles on the floor
Streams, lakes, and oceans are the creation of the water cycle, while puddles are more like the product of littering. The 5 puddles were left there until the dust of soil, residue of food, skin tissue, and particles from some distant comet permeated the surface, seizing every pore inside of the shallow sugar. The viscous golden liquid became slices of grey rock. If somebody burdens the pressured responsibility to learn something from everything, the lesson they should take is not to use honey as the filter of any vacuum cleaner.
4. The sofa is covered with honey
A girl did not wear anything and started to sit towards the sofa until the two halves of her butt just sunk into the honey. Then she laid on the sofa, first with her side, following by turning to a face-up position. Her dry elbows, dry like the lips of a hibernating bear, were now excessively moisturized by the honey and started to ooze oil. She slowly (slowed both by her desire for elegant gestures and by the stickiness of honey) moved her arms and legs and opened and closed every finger and toe and curved every skin that could possibly be curved until the visible parts and hidden seams were moderately draped with honey: only the two eyes were exposed to the air, staring at the naked ceiling, waiting for bees to land and collect nectar on the pupils.
She did not encounter the arrival of bees or bear but that of another, slightly taller girl, who kneeled beside the sofa and watched the honey dehydrate and crystallize, like rosin bearing on a pine tree; after a few decades she would become an insect in some woman’s amber necklace. The taller girl finally stood up, lifted the girl from the sofa (she made the mistake of neglecting to cut the connection between sofa and body, so some pieces of the back were peeled off), and placed her in a standing position on a tricycle like a gold-leafed statue on a pedestal. The perpendicular position was double-checked with a right-angled ruler.
The taller girl walked in the city, pulling the tricycle behind her. The wheels wallowed and bumped amid rocks, wind, and manhole covers, shattering the honey coating into the patterns of floor tiles. Light penetrated and commuted inside the whorled facades of honey, intervened with a dense series of crisp turnovers when intercepted by the skin: another wall. She slapped away every bird and insect, and chose the path with the least dust. When hunger struck she would break off a piece of sugar from the girl’s body, crack it into 7:3 portion, and feed the smaller piece to the girl and the larger one to herself. As she walked on the concrete she realized that no fluid ever set.
5. Every morning, drops of nectar bear on the wall and a jar of pickled radishes appears on the floor
Some were bored on the ceiling, always in the process of dropping off. Some on the floor and some always at the edge of losing their perfect bead shape due to gravity. Some on the wall and they just stayed as they were. Every 7:05 AM, a girl would walk in and eat the entire jar of pickled radish, unaware of the threat of exceeding recommended daily sodium intake. Then she would collect every reachable drop of nectar into the pickle jar and sweep the drops on the floor into the jar with the tip of her nose. Once back home, she would stew a pot of strawberries that, on bed, grew in every-last-night into jam while waiting for the honey to pickle.
Yuqing Liu was a water trainer specialized in growing water into the squirrel shape in her previous life.