There Was No Salt In the House
by Jane-Rebecca Cannarella
We sat at our kitchen table with the stained blue tablecloth we thought would class up our empty apartment. The light from our trash-picked lamp cast shadows across your face and you looked like a dusty blue-eyed painting. Our table sat next to a window in the living room with the Venetian blinds torn off, and you were a part of the atmosphere.
During that endless summer, there was no salt in the house, so I flavored our meals with the rust from the bumper of your old Buick LeSabre. We had made a promise that no matter how drunk we got, we’d never get dinner from 7-11 on 40th and Walnut again. Two weeks later, we broke the promise and giggled like little kids going against the adult us-es as we swayingly pointed out what we wanted to eat, little foam mustaches of Porter on our faces. Twin conspirators, we picked out some extra bags of Lay’s potato chips–salt and vinegar and sour cream and onion–and laughed the entirety of the two blocks home. Your face was covered in blonde crumbs.
We had, and still have, no condiments and a salt fiend and a hot sauce addict need their tools for the beer blunted blandness of 7-11 meals. I tried to wipe the crumbs from your face, a potato-y seasoning, and you wondered aloud in your scratchy voice why no one had marketed potato pepper yet.
Pulling from somewhere in our boozy brains, we started talking about chemistry classes from high school and how salt was made. How it’s a chemical and a mineral–plant, animal, air, earth–pool water and ocean waves. We figured salt was found in everything, the heated film of our skins, soda cups, chairs. Everything. We’d just need to grate the substance from any surface. I licked a portion of my damp sweating arm–salt all around us. You rubbed your hand against the stubble on your jaw and it sounded like a cat purring, somewhere outside a car alarm went off and you made an Abbott Costello face at the sound. We both looked outside at the street.
Rust is corrosion and oxidation. It’s iron oxide formed on either iron or steel. And we both knew that your old golden LeSabre was a breeding ground for that tarnished spice. Your bumper was the paprika of salt. When I drew the grater across it, rust fell like rain into a white porcelain bowl, damaged from its prior life in a thrift store and its life even before that. We loved that bowl for its imperfection, grinning at us with its chipped tooth body. Your car was our spice vessel and I filled the bowl with a layer of the flaking LeSabre. The humidity caused sweat to pour from our armpits, and the beer mustaches were mixed with the salty dampness of our bodies. Before we took the bowl back inside, you slapped the hood of the LeSabre and I gently touched my lips to its gilded body.
Your car was in our meals that night and we became part machine. We moved mouths around our drunk repast, our gingered supper, and we were salt and earth and air and water and animal and that one road trip in a beat up car from Philly to Chester to see if we could find original recipe Four Lokos. There is no salt in rust, but we flavored our food with it anyway. Wily demons fucking around for the fun of it, you distributed another spoonful of reddishness across your pizza like the way my mother would spoon Parmesan cheese across her lasagna.
The light from the lamp still shone on you, and after eating I kissed the intermingled dark and light shades from your face. The aging of machinery fresh in our mouths. We were both machines and imperfect chipped china bowls once loved in different lifetimes. Across the table from one another, high school chemistry having failed us, I could still taste the salt from your skin, the freshness of your flesh better than any meal I’ve ever eaten.
Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is the editor of HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit. She was a genre editor at Lunch Ticket, as well as a contributing writer at SSG Music. When not poorly playing the piano, she chronicles the many ways that she embarrasses herself at the website www.youlifeisnotsogreat.com. Her chapbooks of flash/prose-poems, Tiny Thoughts for Tiny Feelings and Unicorn Tracheotomy, were published by BA Press, 2002. Her collection of flash prose, Better Bones, is forthcoming from Thirty West Publishing House, summer 2019.