Excerpt from Sarah Gerard‘s essay collection Sunshine State, out April 11, 2017 from Harper Collins. Available for pre-order now here.
Lies I heard you tell yourself:
Vitamins from fruits and vegetables are concentrated most densely in the stems. Eating the raw stem of a zucchini is more beneficial to your health than eating all the other parts, cooked or uncooked.
The earth is hollow. There is a hole in Antarctica, or the North Pole, depending on the story. It is visible from space, as proven by photos you’ve found online. A navy admiral named Richard E. Byrd once landed his plane near the hole and encountered a race of humanoids living inside the planet in a land called Agartha. This race has witnessed all the events of human history. They brought Byrd inside the planet and sent him back to civilization with the message that we’re headed for extinction.
Present-day humans are the descendants of a technologically advanced extraterrestrial race called the Anunnaki who came to Earth from the planet Nibiru and bred with Homo erectus. We know this because a man named Zecharia Sitchin has translated ancient Babylonian tablets and uncovered details of Sumerian myth, which also prove that Ur was destroyed by nuclear fallout from the war between extraterrestrial factions.
The government controls our minds with chemical-filled contrails dragged across the sky behind airplanes. As a society, we’re growing progressively stupider and more complacent from breathing in these chemtrails, which can also control the weather.
Everything is controlled by the Illuminati. If you look closely enough, you can find evidence of it anywhere: in the Gmail symbol, in a skirt Beyoncé wore to an awards show, in the dollar bill, and even in the Florida state flag. They are responsible for the rises to power of several important people as well as for countless suspicious deaths. We are all their slaves.
Some people are psychic, and others have special insight into the stars. When you were a child, your mother took you to visit her psychic, who became a close family friend. I went with you once, but she didn’t tell my fortune.
Tarot cards can tell you things about the future.
You and I are cosmic twins. Each night, while we’re sleeping, we find each other, no matter where we are. No matter if I’m in New York. No matter if you’re in Florida. We have been together since the dawn of the universe in infinite forms. We were once an Indian raja and his daughter.
You can force people to love you. If you doubt their commitment, you can force them to prove themselves. You can do this to them over and over, and you will be justified, even when they say they’re tired.
The love of a friendship should be limitless. You should be prepared to do anything for each other.
Lies I told you:
A ghost grabbed my toe in the dark one of many nights you slept at my house. We lay awake for hours awaiting another toe grab that never came.
I used JTT’s bathroom.
I was sleeping the night before I moved to New York with my then-boyfriend, while you stood outside his apartment, calling and calling, and I didn’t pick up. You and I had plans to sing karaoke. He and I were actually fucking.
My mother liked you.
I was a fan of Johnny Cash when I slipped his Greatest Hits into the CD player as we crossed the bridge to the beach one night when I was home from college.
I would read Women Who Run with the Wolves. I never intended to read it. At first, I didn’t trust your recommendation. Now it reminds me too much of you.
I have never looked down on you.
I have helped you at all times without judgment.
When I said I’d be your daughter’s godmother, I was ready.
When you called the bookstore where I worked on your birthday, a month after the last time we stopped speaking, you were told I wasn’t there. You called me by my nickname and told the bookseller who answered the phone which section I managed. You called yourself a name other than your own, to try to trick them. I’d told them to lie.
Your daughter emailed me from your account a year after we stopped speaking. I responded with pictures and a list of accomplishments, knowing you’d be jealous.
Driving through downtown one night past the Detroit Hotel, you told me you’d been reading Schopenhauer’s Essays and Aphorisms. I insisted you had misunderstood the title, but I was just an idiot.
I don’t wonder what I’d say if I saw you again in passing. When I visit my parents in Florida, I don’t make a point to go downtown in the hope that you’ll be there. You’d be eating pizza on the sidewalk outside Fortunato’s, surrounded by friends. You’d be smiling and content, the loudest and most interesting of the group. You would talk with your mouth full, like you always have, and would clear the food from your gums with a nail-bitten finger. I would stand across the street, watching you silently in the dark. Your daughter would see me first. I would smile and wave to her.
The detritus of a happy friendship: the tin Beatles poster; your chest of special things, including your copy of a newspaper article about Robert E. Lee, your great-great-great-uncle; the notes we tossed back and forth in Spanish class (Señora Santiago hated us); your journals, which still sit atop my refrigerator; the copy of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet that you gave me in New York, an inscription inside from one early-century friend to another; the Bhagavad Gita; the glass pelican sun ornament your daughter gave me, now broken; matching red parachute jackets; matching sneakers and haircuts; No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom; the photograph I keep turned backward in a frame engraved with “Best Friends”: we’re posing for each other.
I know you live on a peach orchard now. Last year, your younger daughter seized in the orchard and turned blue, and you ran screaming back to the house with her in your arms, unable to open her jaw.
I check up on you, yes.
Sarah Gerard is the author of the novel Binary Star (Two Dollar Radio), the forthcoming essay collection Sunshine State (Harper Perennial), and two chapbooks, most recently BFF (Guillotine). Her short stories, essays, interviews, and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, Granta, New York Magazine‘s “The Cut”, The Paris Review Daily, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Bookforum, Joyland, Vice, BOMB Magazine, and other journals, as well as anthologies for Joyland and The Saturday Evening Post. She’s been supported by fellowships and residencies from Yaddo, Tin House, and PlatteForum. She writes a monthly column on food for Hazlitt and teaches writing in New York City.