1 Nonfiction story
by Emma Revenaugh
Nova Classical Academy
American Made silverware
It is Thanksgiving, and I am shiny and good. My entire family dances around, remarking on the singular moments of our days. It is the same as it has always been, only now, we are happier. We know today is no different than any other day, just as we know that in all likelihood, a time when the pilgrims and the natives united themselves in a joyful day of celebration and plenty has never existed. But these are nice lies, so today we allow ourselves to believe them. Today, we have chosen to gloss over the saddest parts of our histories, the saddest parts of ourselves.
I have always been the one to set the table. Four pieces of French silverware per plate, dried oak leaves, wax candles, New England linen, I speak their languages. My thankfulness speaks to all the right and informed and sentimental things, and I rehearse my words so I never falter. You have such a way of creating beautiful things.
At dinner, the goal remains unspoken; either say unarguable things or try to ignore it when we say things that make us want to argue. We strive for this harmony, but in the end, we are hungry wolves, and the bold truth suffices better than old stories. An aunt makes a veiled comment about a mutual friend, and we ignite ourselves again. Nevertheless, I am still kind. I have lived long enough to know that we will all say the same words and never mean them; that my body, my breasts, my friends, my thoughts will be carved out and devoured. I am the first born of the children, the blessed virgin, the sacrificial lamb, the holy martyr; this is my responsibility and I am not afraid of it anymore. To be special is to forgive everything and to be angry at no one. You are so good, thank you for that.
And today, none of us are predisposed to be alcoholics. I am 12 years old, and at this table I had my first tiny glass of wine; today, a whisky shot to celebrate my womanhood. Already my body shakes and the bitterness burns me up, but my grandmother’s eyes are the same shade of blue as mine, and they are shining at me. You really are one of us, aren’t you?
In my grandmother’s house, 75 faded plastic Native American statues sit on the windowsill, staring at me with their dark, cold eyes. They have always sat there, foreign bodies in the home of a pristine American dream, white picket fence of a woman but today, as we remark on the ever growing collection over grocery store pie, we understand their place there. A long time ago, my more innocent self thought they were haunted and she was crazy; I never grew out of that notion. The presence of ghosts was not what ultimately convinced me of her insanity, however. I am six years old and my father cries in front of me, and then he disappears into himself; I have lived with ghosts. But it brought to my attention the first inklings of the theorem. The theorem — if you are raised up Irish Catholic, you go down one of two paths, insanity or sadness. My grandmother chose insanity; my father chose sadness. And I am my mother’s child, and my father’s. I am a product of my history.
The throng of voices drowns out the impulses ricocheting between my temples. Stab myself in my eyeball with a tiny salad fork, or throttle an annoying cousin, or tell another one that obesity can usually be solved by just eating healthier. I am not angry deep down, but I am also not a good liar, even on days like this. I feel my chest burn long after the day is done. Just as I feel that walking down the boulevard in the half dark, daydreaming and eating up every word the world gives me, tears will well in my eyelids and fall down my cheeks. Looking at faces that pass, the drug dealer whose little sister I’ve held a conversation with, a neighbor’s worldly aunt, the old man and his dog who share quite the resemblance, I fall apart without a reason why. I walk home under the glow of the street lights, reflecting off of the puddles on the concrete, and tell myself that I cry simply because I have felt enough good things for one day — that is what my mother says.
But now, it is no longer Thanksgiving. One, maybe two in the morning, the time when I become too tired to sleep. Finally, the balloon of our supposed bliss bursts open, and the cold air that leaks in from the windows drowns out the scent of turkey stock and whiskey on our breath. All day, we have been eating, our food, our words, our minds, perched on the prongs of our immaculate French silverware, a symbol of antique grace. I should be full, but I am starving; my insides melt and pool into the raw pit of my gut. So I fill myself with rice from a Tupperware, eaten with some foreign factory spoon. These utensils we most often use, as they are made for us, the brightly shining spots of middle America, with our holidays full of lies and our histories painted on our faces by an optimistic hand. They are lies, shiny and lovely, whose materials remain unknown, but we accept them nevertheless. Maybe that is what you are — American made silverware.
"American Made Silverware" was a runner up for the 2018 Stephen Bonga Award for High School Students (Prose)
Emma Revenaugh is a high school junior from Nova Classical Academy. She lives in lovely St. Paul, Minnesota, where she has resided for most of her life. Aside from writing, her persuasions include film, long haul backpacking and canoeing, vegetarianism, and knicknacks.