Not all memories satisfy a desire to be remembered. To live on, we’ve come to learn how to forget those unwanted memories instinctually We suppress the darkest of times far beneath the lightest of times, burying it to the near core of our very being. Light enters through our wounds. Though deep within us, these memories linger as scars.
I have never been able to eat chicken, and no one has never tried to feed me chicken. It’s not only the rubbery texture or pungent smell, nor the way you see its tendons that once provided movement or veins that once pulsated life — life simultaneous to mine — now, placed lifeless on my plate, absolutely repulses me. I’ve just never really had an appetite for chicken. Before, I never used to stamp myself as a pure vegetarian. Now, it’s my short and sweet reason to tell others when they ask, “why not eat meat?” I’m surrounded by carnivores. They can’t wrap their heads around the fact that I can actually get enough protein from a plant.
For today’s lunch, we took advantage of the sun’s warmth and celebrated the beautiful day by eating on the trendy Grill & Bar’s patio. Soaking in the heat’s waves, we sat around the table, drowning ourselves in laughter from jokes and stories, as each of us consequentially, struggled to gasp for air. We talked about how this moment reminded us of our younger, carefree summer days. Involuntarily, we see in each other’s eyes, a reflection of a childhood memory replaying in our minds.
There is something about today’s weather that reminds me of the blue sky of another day, adjoined with a breeze wafting the garlicky aroma of grilled chicken breast. Where have I smelled this savoury scent of the grill before? Abruptly, my stomach began to turn at the thought of burning flesh. I could almost hear the sizzling of fat dripping onto the coals amidst the crisping of the skin — followed by imagined softening cries of the once sentient chicken. To think, the average American consumes a little over two hundred pounds of meat per year. With nearly eight billion chickens being robbed of life, these chicken’s mere destiny is their death from flesh-eating flames. It became almost impossible to ignore that thought, as my friend began to poke at their meal, observing the tenderness of its muscles. While being the only vegetarian, it was hard to ignore the prominence of seasoned chicken, beef, and pork circulating the table, masking the preceding terror with a powering fragrance of fresh garlic. Everyone’s back eagerly shot upright, tightening their grip around their forks and knives as the waiter sets their plates in front of them. I seeped far into the bottom of the chair. My eyes reflect the flames coming from the screams of their burning laughter. The air becomes dense from a feeling of smoke, filling my lungs as I struggle to breathe. Except, no one else notices. Only within me, the fire awakens, and flames progressively burn brighter.
Suddenly, I’m no longer able to distinguish where the past ends and the present begins. My father always loved the smell of grilled garlic-butter chicken, it was his favorite food to grill. The rest of my family enjoyed grilling too, they especially loved my father’s chicken. On the other hand, my mother always preferred a fresh salad on a blissful day. However, the smell of the chicken turned into a noxious odor of bursting flames. Instantaneously, the laughter of my family, turned into screams as they ran for their lives. Among those voices, I began to hear my mother’s. But, I can only see her reaching for help across the flaming red beam, while my father runs toward an opening from a fallen door. My mother’s appearance fades within the blackening smoke, along with my memory of her. All of her pictures burned with her, where her essence remains only in our minds. I can no longer recognize her through other’s cherished photographs of her. They tell me how my mother was a humanitarian, praised for how deeply she cared for all. I only held onto the remembrance of my mother’s deep compassion radiating outward, reverberating onto the rest of the world. While growing up and even up until today, my father would then tell me stories of times we’ve shared with my mother. I was never fed chicken because of her. My dad would say to me, “she couldn’t even hurt a fly — let alone, eat a chicken.”
My mind snaps back to reality as the waiter sets down my garden salad in front of me. The colorful mixture of sliced vegetables and romaine lettuce calms me down. The lightness of salad sends a reviving shock throughout, enthusing gratitude for another blissful day.