It’s not just a spoon
People are interesting creatures. We encode meaning and memory into objects, and frequently project our psyches into tangible things. There are some objects, which elicit the most pure and concentrated memories, laced — like an oatmeal cookie — with nostalgia. A. and I came upon one such object on a Spring afternoon when we were running errands on foot.
The heat of the day was swelling, but it was still mild enough. We cut through a shopping center driveway, next to Taco Bell, to get to the crosswalk. We discussed art, the goings on of the world, and what was next on our list. In the midst of all our chatter, a shiny object caught my gaze.
There, in the grass median between vast swathes of blacktop, rested a spoon. It wasn’t just any spoon. It was one of the ones you buy in airports or curio shops, the kind never meant to touch food. The edges of it folded into a delicate scalloped edge. A braid of metal made the handle, and atop the braid stood a keyhole, from which a trolley dangled. San Francisco scrawled across the top, and also in its concave surface.
That was the first thought I had upon seeing this bobble. You see, my grandmother, being the practical woman she was, collected spoons from the places she visited. Other people also collected them for her, as folks are wont to do when someone curates a blessed collection of curios and whatnots. What to get Mabel? Of course, a spoon!
She displayed the spoons in a specially crafted shelf. They would dangle from their hand-carved notches and behind them rested porcelain creamers from a less manufactured era. They weren’t her prized possession, but they warmed her heart nonetheless.
I hadn’t thought about Meme’s spoons in years, and now I was on the verge of recalling when I had picked out one for her. I shared all this with A. as I turned the spoon over in my hands.
“This one’s had a hard life,” I told him as I puzzled over the blemishes in the metal. “That’s so strange. I wonder…?”
My mind was on the verge of teasing out exactly what had happened to this little kickshaw when A. found the next item in our macabre set. Perhaps those of you who are more savvy have already conjured all of the possible uses of a spoon, including the sinister ones. Alas, it took locating the hypodermic needle to fully elucidate its recent history.
This was a heroin spoon. As in some had used it to cook drugs and shoot up. Maybe even right there in the parking lot, or as they were driving into the shopping center, chucking it out the window when they were done.
Needy. Addicted. Selfish. Dirty. Sick. Disposable.
Was that black tar on my hands? How much residue was left on the surface of the spoon I had just been fondling with all the genial fuzziness of my childhood and shiny goodness of sweet family memories?
“I think you should put that down,” A. calmly instructed me, as if instead of dropping a spoon he was saving me from a rattlesnake.
“Jesus Christ. Seriously?” A decorative, commemorative spoon? Who in the hell does heroin with a trinket like that? I held my hands away from my body until we could get to the nearest bathroom. I felt robbed. The world had intersected with the memories of my grandmother in a way I could not have anticipated. I had a very specific emotional and intellectual meaning wrapped up in “spoon”. And here was this cruddy little shlock. Scorched from a lighter and pot-marked from a caustic heavy-duty drug.