Dear Diary: It was just a paper bag

This column combines the intimacy of a diary-like narrative with the writer’s own experiences of things little in life and things big: politics and culture. 

Dear Diary,

The revolution will occur on a Thursday. At least that’s what the apples in the brown wicker basket in the dining hall told me, and apples don’t lie. 

When I saw them there, brightly red despite suffocating in the smell of soulless, dried-up chicken, I could feel it. Tendrils of warmth and excitement whirled around inside me, so I grabbed two. I felt like a child again. Like I was senselessly tapping at the window of a candy shop while salivating at the thought of sweetness seeping into my bones. 

Kids have so much hope. I did too, in that moment — because thank god for something other than stale cantaloupe or unidentified meat. The apple whispered to me, “eat eat eat,” and when I hesitated, it started to scream, “we are revolutionizing the dreariness of your dining hall, can’t you see?” Can’t you see? 

And during the first bite, I thought, this is really good. This is really good, and maybe food will be better or people will be better or the state or — 

not. After three more bites, the apple started to taste wrong. Plastic and dirt. I looked down, which I’d forgotten to do because it really was that good, and frowned. Part of the apple was on the verge of rotting. It was brown and soft, wounded and ill. I dropped it, and it hit the ground, hit the soil, down to wherever dead apples go. I looked around. People were still furrowing their brows at what questions to memorize for their Lockheed or Jane Street or World-Changing Wall Street Company interview. People were still swallowing the delicious statements of hegemony made in our political science and economics classes. People were still smiling, having conversations like:

“But what about World-Changing Company One?” asked the boy.

“No, no, they’re much better,” replied his friend. 

“They have pretty good business ethics,” said the boy.

“I know, but Activist Company Two just leaves Bain in the dust!” exclaimed the friend.

or

“How do we explain the violence in these nations?” the teacher asked.

The lovely journals and theorists and Americans of the world, in unison, replied:

“We can’t really blame colonialism or imperialism,” they grinned.

“But —”

“It’s kind of their own fault.”

“But?” asked Fanon. 

Things didn’t feel so sweet anymore. The apple lied. The revolution wasn’t happening on a Thursday (at least not this Thursday, I hope), and I should’ve seen it coming. I really like Fiona Apple, and I really like “Paper Bag” and “The Wretched of the Earth” and things like that, so I should’ve seen it coming. I’ve ended up just like Fiona, though.

Fiona’s song, “Paper Bag, is a favorite. It makes sense, and I want to hug her for it. Fiona believed that a “dove of hope” was making its “downward slope” towards her, but as it came closer, she realized that “it was just a paper bag,” and that the man she was begging to love her was “just a little boy.” 

So, dearest Fiona, you were right. I thought the dining hall’s juicy, red apple was a kind change from the dead chicken, a hint of hope and newness, but it was just a soulless piece of fruit. I thought this was a school of world-changers, and I thought these world-changers would’ve liked to challenge at least an inkling of established everything. But we are just paper bags and toys of the corporate heavens and lovers of tradition that will never keep our own homes warm — only those of the ones that live above, but we don’t care, because who should — Everything is rotten, so why can’t we be rotten, too?

I went crazy again today, like you, Fiona. I don’t want to be rotten, so I’ve been looking for a strand to climb, a little hope that the revolution will happen some other time. But I ate that apple, and now I don’t feel so good.

Am I sick now?

The heavens and the Smart People on Wall Street and others like them told me, like the little boy told you, that it’s all in my head. I should’ve seen it coming, though. When I said so is everything, they didn’t get it.

Little boys never do.