At the bottom of a jar

Near the end of my life, when I was but the traces of my former self, the girl took me from that rarely illuminated place and laid me before her so I could tell my story. I told her of the years I had spent in that cold place, waiting for my day to come. I told her how some mornings I would wake with renewed optimism, that would quickly fade by late afternoon, leaving me listless and hazy for my evening nap. And then it would start again. I told her how I hadn’t always been one of those vague household products that people forget about. I hadn’t always been a mostly empty jar of grape jam.

“Once, I had been a bushel of firm red grapes. I was so young, full of optimism, unsure where my future lie. I could have been shipped to the local market, to be eaten the next day, or made into something called “wine” that seems wildly popular. At least if I had chosen one of these paths my existence would have been brief or meaningful, but fear and vanity got a hold  of me. Fear of being left on that vine to shrivel and die, alone and abandoned. My skin withered by the mercilessness of time. But a rumor was being passed along the vine. It spoke of youth, immortality, a utopia where you would live a long and beautiful life with others like yourself. Through the latest advances in technology they could make you last forever. All you had to do was endure a little pain and give up a piece of yourself.”

I took a few long breaths, sorting through the events in my aging mind.

“So a large group of us shipped off, not long after the rumor had first begun to spread. Little did we know the same lie was being spread to thousands of other vines, and the horror that lay ahead. It was nothing like they said. We let them mash us and break us, sweeten us with lies, inject us with preservatives, until what was once firm and strong, was now diluted and jiggly. Then they poured what was left of our mangled shapes into a glass prison, sealed us in, and sent us off again. We could all but blame ourselves. We had been victims of our own cowardice, believing that if we gave up enough of ourselves to another, we would somehow end up whole. If we let them use us as they pleased, we would somehow end up free. We failed to realize we were never devoid of these things in the first place. Then there was the way of life on the grocery store shelves. The dust, the people, the shuffling, the darkness, the repetition. I was sure this would be the grateful end, but it was just the beginning of a life of half living through others, because you couldn’t call what we were doing, living.”

“And so one day I was brought here, and put in that rarely illuminated place. A time when I still knew what it was called, before all I knew was the cold, and the darkness. I thought this would be my chance for rebirth. When they broke the seal I could see colors as they were again, no longer through that gray tinted glass, I could feel open air again, and I swear I could feel a breeze when the jar was tilted just right. At first, I didn’t mind the parts of myself I had to give up for this brush with the living. But as time wore on I grew more watery, and weary of everything I had already given up. Began to fully recognize the existence I had doomed myself to.This existence as a jar of grape jam.”

I told her: “When you commit yourself to a life that is not truly yours, when you will give any part of yourself out of fear or loneliness, you no longer exist. You will never be anyone’s favorite. You will never be part of someone’s daily routine and breakfast. You will not be the thing that makes their day or that they think about first when they go to make a sandwich. You will never be a priority. You will never be special. You are not cereal nor eggs nor coffee! And you will never be peanut butter!”

She nodded as if she understood.

So I went on: “It is not a fast race to the end, this existence. Each day watching everyone around you move on to that other place. To be constantly passed over, sitting in the back of that rarely illuminated place. Feeling like mold is growing on your insides, until you are left with weak prayers for death. And every time that light comes on it taunts you, and you think you will float in this gray limbo until the sun burns out, and even then, you will still be there.”

I stared into her intent eyes, searching for some form of recognition, and understanding, but could tell she was already somewhere else entirely. Considering the things I had said. Sending her thoughts scattering off like shrap metal.

“I am so tired now. I think it’s time for my afternoon nap.”

So I closed my eyes and dreamt of that sunny vine.

The girl took the jar of jam and emptied the gray molding bits remaining into the trash. She ran it under hot water, and scrubbed until her hands were red, being careful to remove all the sticky-label residue from the outside. Filling the jar with clear cold water and some wilting daisies she took from a bouquet, she placed the jar in the sunlight on her windowsill. She admired the little vase for a moment before leaving the apartment into the morning frost.