Clamming Up!

I made clams for dinner. When I was at the market I decided to buy seven innocent looking little-rock clams. I would take them home and cook them up into a nutritious meal. I new that clams were high in copper and lately I have been feeling like I need to eat more copper. It would be healthy, simple and hassle free.

I had never cooked clams before. I recalled what my father once told me years ago about cooking clams. “Wash, scrub, brine and boil until the little suckers snap right open!” When I began preparations cooking the clams I noticed that one of the clams suddenly opened and then shut. I was startled because I had forgotten that clams are living creatures until they are killed by the boiling water. Suddenly eating clams for dinner seemed a little less appetizing to me.

There is almost no boundary between my sensitivity to the mystery of life and my phobic terror of it. In my greatest moments of pleasure I always feel that at any second something can go terribly wrong. I was excited about the idea of eating clams for dinner until I realized that they were alive. I live in a culture where I am very removed from the process of having to kill the food I eat. Suddenly, I was the one who had to do the killing- and this felt strange. As I washed the clams under cold running water I could swear that I felt them moving inside their tightly clamped shells. My initial reaction to this sensation was to drop the clam into the sink like one does when they are suddenly repulsed by something (in Hebrew the same word is used to connote both “awe” and “fear”). I became so discouraged about the idea of cooking/killing the clams that I wanted to take them and set them free in the river beside my house. But I had spent eleven dollars on them- and that felt like to much money to just throw away.

I added a small amount of white wine and lemon juice to a pot. I put the pot on the stove and turned on the burner. I could feel my heart beating in my neck as I imagined myself suffering a terrible sickness or worse, dying from eating the clams. I recalled the horror stories that I had heard about various people who had become stricken with terrible sicknesses after eating clams. I added some butter to the broth which was beginning to boil.

With one hand shaking and my head filled with uncontrollable thoughts of impending doom- I added the clams one by one to the boiling broth. In the back round I could hear a Beatles song playing on my radio. “Hey!! you got to hide your love away,” the lyrics said. I covered the pot with a lid and went to the sink and obsessively washed my hands which I was concerned were covered in a deadly bacteria that I had once read about people contracting from touching clams. As I washed my hands I could swear that I heard the dying screams of clams. Sounded like a high pitched cry. I opened the lid to the boiling pot and noticed that all the little suckers had snapped open their shells except one. This one hung on to life, unwilling to surrender. I meditated upon the clam for a moment as I waited for it to snap open its shell. It did not. It remained shut unwilling to let go and be at peace. This clam reminded me a lot of myself.

I put the clams in a bowl along with the broth and squeezed fresh lemon on top. I set my dinner table for one and put salt and pepper beside my spoon and fork. The smell of clams reminded me of my youth. I sat down at the dinner table with my bowl of steaming clams and with my fork I grabbed one of the clams out from its shell. I held it up to my nose to make sure it did not have a rancid smell. It smelled like the sea in winter time so I put the clam into my mouth and chewed. And chewed. And chewed. And chewed. And then swallowed. It was delicious but I was nervous. Negative thoughts ran laps around the inside of my mind. What if the clam that I had just swallowed was bad? What if I get sick? I started to have visions of myself dying alone on my living room hardwood floor. My body began to shake like one who has crossed the point of no return. I took a sedative pill and drank a beer straight down. In times of anxiety- beer is the only substance that can calm me down.

I was frustrated because I could not eat the clams in peace. I wanted to enjoy my meal which smelled so good. Instead, I was in panic and already beginning to feel nauseous. My nervous system was turned upside down and would not allow me to sit still. Was I feeling guilty because I killed clams? Was I uncomfortable about cooking clams because I knew nothing about how to do it? Why was I clamming up? I searched for clues to my anxiety but I was able to come up with only one answer. Ditch the clams. I stood up from my dinner table and took the bowl of clams outside with me. I looked up at the moon which was full and then walked over to my neighbors house. I poured the bowl of eleven dollar clams into my neighbors cat food dish. She has seven cats and I figured that at least the cats could enjoy them. I ended up eating raw carrots and nuts for dinner and then going to bed early.

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