DELIGHTS IN 17 HUNDREDS
by Kimberly Pollard, Mae Bennett, Christopher Schaberg, Charles Anicich, Alexandro Lopez, Benjamin Ebert, Halealuia Gugsa, Tyler Turner, Emily Livingston, Maya Krauss, Angelle Lemoine, Madeline Ditsious, Analene McCullough, LillieMarie Johnson, William Kitziger, Breanna Henry, & Olivia Delahoussaye
Midway through the semester in our Contemporary Nonfiction class at Loyola University New Orleans, we read portions of Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights and Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart’s The Hundreds. Channeling these two quite different books, we wrote paragraphs of exactly 100 words, each on a specific “delight.” Not all of us felt at home with Gay’s experiment in delights; The Hundreds was plain dizzying. But we wrote with these two constraints as our guides, and we collect them here as flash essays that, together, reflect us. The results were exhilarating, and gelled in ways we never anticipated.
I leave cheap (but not cheap) kibble in a Tupperware next to my stairs; every morning the bowl is empty, clean, often dragged a yard away. I call one of the strays Miss Ma’am—she’s a dilute tabby with these wide-set, ochre eyes, and the left one’s been oozing clear. She sprawls in the garden’s dead leaves (the elephant ears that couldn’t abide the freeze), and nips at the green gloating weeds. She turns her white-tuft ears to every crunch, car horn, or crow; stops her rolling to investigate only for as long as she has to. I’m watching her eye.
Simplicity is a delight of its own. The word itself is a delight. The word holds so much meaning in four concise syllables, perfectly summarizing its very definition. I went on a bike ride through the park today and was awestruck by the beauty of the simple pleasures surrounding me. The monotonous motion of pedaling the wheels was its own form of meditation. The crisp air circulating through the ancient New Orleans oaks refreshed the essence of my soul. The chatter of pedestrians created a perfect symphony harmonizing with the breeze. There is something rejuvenating about noticing the simple things.
I’ve been delighting in the willow in our backyard. A few weeks ago the end of last year’s scraggly leaves finally dropped, resulting in a wispy skeleton. When it warmed up last week, I noticed hints of kelly green bursting from the brown bark. The baby leaves would grow a few millimeters daily, pushing out and curling up. The floral plumes even started to appear! Catkins, they’re called. During a remote learning ‘share time’ last week, my six-year-old daughter told her class (without any prompting from me, I swear) that she was happy because her willow was growing new leaves.
Cooking is the easiest art to learn but the hardest to master, with the journey being full of delights. Every burned meal turns into a reminder to lower the flame, every heavy sauce a sucker punch to add less cream. But when that once-impossible recipe becomes basic you begin to venture out into deeper waters, tackling dishes that chefs in restaurants make every night. Soon you wish Gordon Ramsey would talk about how you inspire him. But after that wave washes over you and you become comfortable in the kitchen, you happily take the job of chef of the household.
Barbecue delights in its minutiae, the pathological attention to every detail and how it impacts the delicious flavors it produces. A delicate dance of smoke and heat, it takes a practiced and skilled hand to create the mouthwatering flavors that go into the perfect bite. A discipline that takes decades to master, I devote an entire afternoon. With every ounce of my modest barbecue knowledge and skill, I nonetheless delight in the process, reveling in the smoke and heat as I micromanage my pit, the sun hanging overhead like an expectant guest. A full stomach is my only tangible reward.
One more sip of my PBR and another turn of the page; Albert’s absurdly coercive claim: the innocence of murder in a blind, sweltering nonchalance. Beads of sweat dripping from my nose stain the word “liberty.” Am I alone? The grass is green, even in February. I hear a melancholy voice singing a somber song, and gaze at a seagull suspended listlessly in the air, un-flapping over the white shimmering flecks of a midsummer Mississippi. It’s warm today. The echo of techno under the hangerbase-like metal canopy reinforces my feeling of warmth, the rusted wharf now reappropriated by roller skaters.
There’s nothing like a good clean. It is the renewal of what was once old, a rebirth, revival. Cleaning your house, not because someone asked you to, but by your own accord, is the most gratifying thing in the world. Set your playlist on shuffle and mindlessly sway your mop back and forth to the groove of the music, get reacquainted with songs you haven't heard in years. Open your window and allow the larks of sunshine and life into your space, suddenly the dust and plants will come alive. You’ll soon realize this is anything but a solo dance.
Streaming services have allowed me to escape the nightmare reality I have been living in for the past year. Movies starring nostalgic characters from my youth, such as Sonic and Tom and Jerry, have replaced the thunderstorm of anxiety and depression in my head with childlike wonder. Seeing the creativity and detail in shows like WandaVision has motivated me to continue pushing through the trenches of Loyola in order to write something that could be as good as that. I have become grateful to my friends for letting me masquerade as them under their account. Freebies are always a delight.
I park my car a few blocks away from work. The humid air in the spring smells happy. I put in my headphones and walk through the sunlit street to work. As I turn the corner I wave to the bodega worker across the street. These four minutes each morning set my mood for the day. I have to do this, but it is simply joyful. I get to see New Orleans as it is. People going to work, children walking to school. The simplicity of everyday life is more beautiful than the flashing lights and beads that we love.
I went to the beach today. The beach brings me more peace than my mind ever could. I grew up on an island so going to the beach was threaded into my daily schedule. The beauty of nature always astounds me. Seeing the clear blue water as it comes up to the shore and feeling the ocean breeze makes me appreciate nature. There was a tsunami warning today yet, you wouldn’t have been able to tell because of how beautiful and calm it was. I walked along the shore feeling the sand melt underneath my feet, finding peace once more.
Visiting my mom’s house is a delight that does not come as often as it should. Our lives consume us and time escapes us, but in those rare moments where the hour-long drive is worth the trip, life seems so much easier. My mom, my brother, and I, watching movies and eating some sort of gluten-free dairy-free delicacy she’s prepared. Not a lot of words get exchanged between bites, it is simply a time of peace and joy. After my mom goes to sleep, usually too early, the nights always end with my brother playing video games and pure joy.
One delight that I cannot help but write about is very ordinary: taking my dog for walks. Walking is one of his favorite activities, thus making it one of my favorites as well. He’s very strong and always pulls me along, searching for scents and new friends. Sometimes I wonder if he even remembers that I’m still behind him, getting dragged along as we make our way around the neighborhood. He never looks backwards, always forwards (unless I ask him to slow down, then I get the look). Then he spots another dog, and suddenly I am being dragged again.
A simple delight that I have grown to love is tea, specifically sweet tea, but there isn’t too much to specify. Since I stopped drinking sodas in eighth grade, tea grew on me until it became a drink that I looked forward to on a daily basis. I find that I am at my happiest when I am able to have some water and tea within my day. Sweet tea is a reminder of family weekend dinners and late nights spent around the people you love. So I drink sweet tea and remember those nights with the ghosts of memories.
Nothing can beat the raw exhilaration of discovering that you have far much more free time than you once believed. You may find your mind locked in on a single task that fate seems to treat as an elevated experience. I may spend two or three hours behind a microphone, but father time will look down kindly upon my efforts and return to me a parcel of my youth. You may even feel his electric finger of restoration gliding down your vertebrae as your face shines radiantly at the lower than expected numbers displayed on the microwave oven’s eternity counter.
I saw her as I was coming back from checking out camera equipment. Although my hands were full, I dug out my phone, zoomed in best I could with one hand, and snapped a shot before she saw me. In our Chi Alpha group chat, we’ve made a game: if we see one of us around campus, we have to sneakily take a picture of them and send it in the GroupMe for points. She won last semester, so I was determined to catch her off guard. Afterwards, I yelled out to her. “Hey Tomi!” She waved back. Got her.
I’ve always thought that the color orange has always been too bright and a little too overbearing. Recently, I’ve semi-adopted an orange tabby cat, who I have named Bug. He is, like his color, too bright and sometimes overbearing. But he is a wonderful companion. He likes the quiet but is always willing to start a conversation; he’s a drop of honey in an unsweet world. He likes to bathe in the sun, his fur shifting and reflecting various shades of orange as he breathes in the warm air. I’ve come to know happiness in those varying shades of orange.
Charles Anicich is a student of Mass Communication with a Public Relations concentration with a minor in English Writing at Loyola University New Orleans.
Mae Bennett is a student of English literature and education at Loyola University New Orleans.
Olivia Delahoussaye is a student of English Writing at Loyola University New Orleans.
Jacelyn Dill is a student of English Writing at Loyola University New Orleans.
Madeline Ditsious is a student of English Writing at Loyola University New Orleans.
Benjamin Ebert is a student of English Literature at Loyola University New Orleans.
Halle Gugsa is a student of Film & Digital Media at Loyola University New Orleans.
Breanna Henry is a Mass Communication and English Writing double major at Loyola University New Orleans and a glutton for short stories.
LillieMarie Johnson is a student of English Writing at Loyola University New Orleans.
Maya Krauss is a student of Criminology & Justice with a minor in Classical Studies at Loyola University New Orleans.
Angelle Lemoine is a student of English Literature at Loyola University New Orleans.
Emily Livingston is a student of English Writing at Loyola University New Orleans.
Alex Lopez is a student of Business Analytics at Loyola University New Orleans.
Analene McCullough is a student of History and English at Loyola University New Orleans.
Kimberly Pollard is a student of English Writing at Loyola University New Orleans.
Christopher Schaberg is Professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans and author of six books.
Tyler Turner is a student of Film & Digital Media at Loyola University New Orleans.
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