by Jeff Oaks
My friend Jeanne Marie has chickens, and her chickens have been producing eggs. So many eggs that she has to give them away. I’m staring at a few of them right now, bubbling in salt water, in a pot on my stove. A thin stream of bubbles escapes each one, like a group of condemned men smoking before a firing squad. Fifteen minutes and they’re hardboiled, just how I like them.
That an egg is a dry thing barely holding together a wet thing is an interesting thing. Its dryness is fragile, which makes it intrinsically dramatic when it appears, like Chekhov’s gun. It needs to be used, broken into, cracked like a case of unsuspected identity.
Every time I break an egg, I fear I’m going to find a dead chick inside. Every single time. Then there’s the horror of the escaped eye as the yolk and the albumen slither down the side of the mixing bowl before the fork begins its grisly work of scrambling everything together. When I was little, I used to eat them sunny side up, dipping my toast into the warm yolk, but now that makes me want to gag. All that runniness is too close to mucus.
I hate to be wet, to be rained on, to sweat, which has long separated me from being a good egg. Although I do love a long hot soak in a tub. Once I’m in and not likely to pull him in too, the dog likes to come in and check on me occasionally, smell my hand, see if I’m cooked in the head. I liked him immediately when I met him as a puppy because he had an egg-shaped head rather than the more bowling-ball head many black labs do. Unlike me, he hates the bath, but loves every other kind of being wet. One of us is always surprising the other.
Castor and Clytemnestra, Helen and Pollux. Mork from Ork. Lady Gaga. The egg is the symbol of arrival, of a change, an old simplicity, a new beginning. Mothership, shuttle, escape pod, seed. What I imagine my hands to be holding when I pray; what turns into a white bird when I opened my hands again.
Everything seems simple at first. Out of what comes the egg? Life, which can fold itself into some strange shapes. Which is why the old question seems always odd: of course the egg came first. But then it couldn’t cross the road. And then it needed someone to build a road, never mind to where exactly.