Have you ever thought about how you'd act if there was a war going on around you?
In my kitchen last week, I clutched a can of store-brand sliced beets in both hands, imagining my hands were filthy and that finding a can of still-intact food of any sort was a miracle.
I wasn’t imagining my hands were dirty because I hadn’t washed them today, but dirty because I hadn’t washed them in weeks. Months. Whenever the last time they were covered in someone else’s blood, probably.
I pictured myself freezing. I recalled the opening line from City of Thieves, a book that takes place during the siege of Stalingrad. I read it many moons ago but that opening line stayed with me:
“You have never been so hungry; you have never been so cold.”
I am actually hungry in this moment in my kitchen in which I clutch the can of beets. Very hungry. But I am also warm and comfortable.
I am not in a war. I have never been involved in a war, neither as a solider nor as a civilian.
I’m not even sick. I just haven’t been to the store in a while. This can of beets has been in my cupboard for over a year.
Gross, why did I buy those? I think every time I see them.
How lucky we are to choose our food. How lucky to not be so starving that a can of beets looks downright incredible.
Imagine not having eaten for days. Weeks, even. Not knowing when you will eat again.
Imagine then finding a can of beets. You’d eat every last one and love it. Better than the best meal you’d have ever had in your non-wartime life. Better than the best sex.
Drain the liquid from the can before eating them? You wouldn’t dream of it. You’d drink every last drop of beet juice from that can and ask God to send you another.
I like to get inside the head of Wartime-Angus. I wonder how he’d think. How he’d handle it. How he’d laugh at the things we cared about before the war. How he’d be sad he never appreciated everything. How he’d shutter thinking of all the waste.
My girlfriend recently cooked carrots without peeling them, like she does. I recoiled at first at the thought of not peeling the outer layer off like I always had. But Wartime-Angus wouldn’t dream of peeling those carrots. He’d eat the peel. He’d probably eat the stem also. And your hand if you didn’t take it away fast enough.
I ended up eating the entire can of beets that same day. I enjoyed them a lot more than I normally would have.
Our desires are so relative.