Last week I wanted chips and salsa. This is not my regular snack and I was pretty excited about this new fun thing I got at the grocery store. But when it was time to open it at home the lid wouldn’t budge. I gave it everything I had, so much that my arms were shaking, hands clenching. But still nothing. I paced the kitchen and briefly considered my options: no one else was home. There aren’t two men who live upstairs anymore. I could go to a neighbor? Or take it to work tomorrow? But every possible solution was unsatisfying, too complicated. I wanted salsa. Now.
I could measure my life in too-tight jars; in heavy things; in fights with sedentary objects: loaded bikes on subway cars, bins of dense bread on city sidewalks, buckets of ice and maple syrup going upstairs for service, ebikes on trucks, tires on rims and rims on cars.
Sometimes at the bike shop customers will ask me, but how did you get those pedals off? I am not the strongest person, but I rarely need help when it comes to issues of sheer force. There are tricks–it’s about where you put the tools and where you put your body and using your weight to your advantage. It’s about closing the triangle, trying again, bracing the bike with your hips. It’s about practice. And I feel like sometimes…it’s about looking at a problem and knowing, simply, that it must get done.
So anyway, back to the salsa jar at my house. I tried a few loosening techniques–jamming a knife into the edges of the lid, tapping it gently on the counter to break the seal. Then I tried again with as much strength as I had and then I went beyond that–tapping into teeth-grinding, animal-grunting force–because I knew I was close, because I really wanted that salsa–and it popped ! satisfyingly open. It seemed like part of what opened that jar was straight up will, the fact that I wouldn’t accept any other outcome.
And that’s where I’m tempted to end this essay–all neatly tied up like a writer should. But it doesn’t sit quite right. Because I remember that coconut oil jar that stayed shut all winter and I remember sitting by my Prius, the hubcap off, the bolts off, the car jacked, but unable to loosen the rim from the car no matter what I tried. I’m looking for a moral about how to do hard things, but honestly, I can’t find a clear answer. Because some hard things cannot be done.
In a story, a person always needs a reason for the things she does. Even where there appears to be no motivation, later on it is always revealed by the subtle architecture of plot and resonance that there was one. Narrative cannot sustain formlessness any more than light can sustain darkness–it is the antithesis of formlessness, and so it can never truly communicate it. Chaos is the one truth that narrative must always betray, for in the creation of its delicate structures that reveal many truths about life, the portion of truth that has to do with incoherence and disorder must be obscured.Nicole Krauss, Forest Dark
In the moment that I opened that jar it seemed like there was a plot, a meaning behind it; that it said something about what I was capable of. And even though sometimes it feels true that you can will things into reality, maybe it’s actually about the winds, the tides, the things we can’t see. Or maybe, like Nicole says, it is all just chaos. As much as I’d like to make a whole story out of being able to open that jar maybe there’s no story there.
Anyway I really did enjoy those chips though. I got salsa on my shirt and licked my salty fingers when I was done.