On Thursday morning, a swollen inter-department mailer sat in my mailbox at work. Are you familiar with these? It’s an envelope, ten by thirteen inches, brownish-gold, the color of dehydrated urine. You seal it by twisting a string around a fastener. It’s not for stamped postal mail, my name is simply scrawled on the envelope at the bottom of a long list of crossed-out names. Our delivery driver brought it. That’s how we move stuff between branches and departments at the library where I work. I thought it was full of money.
Because I’m the finance director, people send me money all the time. The fines and copy fees we collect at each branch come to me weekly for accounting. It’s the only money we earn. The rest comes from grants and donations. I spend a lot of time tallying up small amounts of money—sixty-cent fines and forty-cent copy jobs. As a tiny part of a three-million-dollar budget, someone might argue that this isn’t a good use of my time, but responsible accounting practices means someone needs to do it, and I’m the only one. As it turns out, this envelope was full of jellybeans. Black ones.
I could write a self-serving story about why Vicki, my old assistant who retired nine months ago, sends me candy via her sister who still volunteers for the library, but really, I want to write about jellybeans.
I’m obsessive about the food I take to work. I pack the same bag every day. A handful of almonds, a handful of carrots, a handful of pretzels, a hummus sandwich and a couple of squares of dark chocolate. I top it off with a reddish apple, gala or honeycrisp, and thirty ounces of lightly spritzed water from my Soda Stream seltzer machine. On the days I walk to work, I throw in a banana to offset the extra calorie expenditure. I created this meal in 2018 when I first accepted my job, and I rarely deviate. This is exactly the number of calories I need to get through the day, so if I start the day a little hungry, I feel hungry all day long.
A few weeks ago, Rose, who replaced Rachel, the teenager who replaced Vicki (it’s a hard job, Rachel lasted a week), said “No wonder you’re always hungry. I hear you in here crunching on carrots all day. You need to bring in something with substance. Bring in a plate of rice and beans.”
I started Thursday morning famished. Even after my Wednesday night spin class, I limit myself to two small bowls of Special K each morning—a radical departure from the days when I ate a half a box of Golden Grahams every day. I’m still trying to lose some pounds. I’m trying to return to my marathoning weight, my waif-like stature when I ran twelve to eighteen miles every Saturday morning. I’ve lost a pound in the past two months. I’m starting to believe the only way to reach my marathoning weight is to start marathoning again.
I texted Susan, Sophie and Eli: Yay! Vicki sent me a bag of black jellybeans! I included a photo. When I was in college, I only talked with my parents for fifteen minutes every Sunday afternoon. I sat on the windowsill at the end of the hall, my head and neck strained forward so I could reach the handset on the pay telephone mounted to the wall. I quickly recounted my week, my academic successes and failures, grief about bouncing yet another two-dollar check on a pitcher of Schaefer beer, and maybe a snippet of campus life—yuck, corn dogs for lunch again. I spent the whole phone call praying that no one on my dorm floor shouted “Man, I gotta take a sh*t!
Now, as a college student, Sophie is just part of our daily conversation. We loop her in on the mundane minutia of family life: e.g. my bag of jellybeans. I once asked her how she felt about being included in the done running text I always send when I get back to my car so no one worries that I had a heart attack on the trail. She said “I like knowing you went running.”
Ninety minutes later, just below my jellybean text, unanswered save Susan’s obligatory thumbs-up, I wrote. Ugh. Too many jellybeans. I stapled the bag shut!
My inability to moderate my candy intake is well documented here on my blog and within my family. Over the years, countless late night road trips ended with me so wired on gummy bears that I needed two or three beers to get to sleep. Now that I no longer drink, I make sure my driving ends well before bed time lest I lay in bed, sleepless, with my synapses short circuiting.
At Eli’s request, I brought my jellybeans home from work. I’m less likely to eat them when I’m not sitting at my desk slowly starving to death. Or at least I’m less likely to overdose on them. In a couple of months, Vicki will send in a bag of Payday bars or a huge box of Good & Plenty or a tin of fudge, some of my favorites. I’ll repeat the process of overeating for an entire day before bringing my windfall home to share. One day, maybe, I’ll learn to control myself when faced with unlimited candy. In the meantime, I’ll just continue to make myself sick.
Previously Published on jefftcann.com