My first Christmas in my first apartment alone, trying to be a big time grownup, I made French onion soup for Christmas dinner. I called home to California earlier in the day. I had read a scripture, I told my mom, something about getting my house in order, and I felt I needed to do that, which involved me staying in Nashville for Christmas, again, alone. She wasn’t convinced, but because she couldn’t fly out and physically drag me back home, she accepted it.
I was trying to be so adult. I was trying to prove something, though, looking back, I can’t imagine what. Was I trying to prove that I could withstand severe holiday depression? Was I trying to prove that no matter how badly I wanted to off myself that season, I didn’t need my family to help me not become a statistic?
I called my Hungarian violin teacher after I called my family. He was a big part of my life then as music was a big part of my life and also because I adored his stories of escaping communism and how the communists used to make the Hungarians eat diseased cow meat and chocolate made from blood. Zsolt was also disappointed I wasn’t coming home. He seemed put off by my choice of Christmas dinner. He said, “Well, maybe you could float an ornament in it and make it more Christmasy that way.” I laughed and felt lonelier by the minute.
God I was miserable then—a miserable sort of miserable that radiated in waves across the country from Nashville to my little burg in California called “Berdoo.”
I was new to keeping my own appliances then, just as I was new to keeping my own household in general. For example, while I had used a garbage disposal many times as a kid growing up, I somehow never learned that putting onion skins down one is not such a great idea. By the time I had all the onions in the Christmas soup pot sautéing with butter, beginning to oddly smell like apples the closer they came to caramelizing, my garbage disposal was filled to brimming with onion skins.
I ran the water which began to fill the sink and turned the thing on. It growled like a demon but the water didn’t go down. It began to spit up chopped onion skins in great belches making of the sink water a slimy, stinky soup of its own. I stopped the thing. “That was not bright,” I told myself.
I grudgingly lugged my plunger into the kitchen from the bathroom. In retrospect, it is amazing I had a plunger given that, when I first moved it, I somehow hadn’t realized until I was in dire need that toilet paper doesn’t grow on the roll.
I stuck the plunger to the drain and plunged for dear life. More and more onion skins belched forth from the disposal along with other unspeakable things most likely from tenants past. I sucked everything out of there I could, then turned the thing on, having thought there was something stuck and I had by the sweat of my plunging arm dislodged it.
The water didn’t go down. The chopped up onion skin and unnamable goop mocked me as it danced its spiral dance around the sink.
I ended up having to strain all that onion skin and other detritus out of the sink with my bare hand, letting the water slip through, but retaining the chunks that clung to my fingers. I pulled the trash can up next to me and went to town. I think a year might have gone by.
The sink came clean, the water went down, and the garbage disposal growled happily, its gut no longer sick.
I washed by hands at least three times. I washed the plunger. I raised the plunger over my head and made He-Man muscles.
“I am the Garbage Disposal Master of the Universe!” I proclaimed to my empty apartment. The high ceiling echoed back at me.
“I am the Garbage Disposal Master of the Universe!” I shouted again. The ceiling repeated it.
I lowered my plunger and shrugged my shoulders. Shoving the onion skins down the disposal was not the only terrible mistake I made that lonely Christmas. Not by a long shot.