A therapist’s office on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, present day.
Therapist: Do you remember the day it began? Do you remember where you were?
Therapist: What did you notice first?
Patient: The raised print on the jars — the swirled font, and the words “Mason” and “Atlas.”
Therapist: Had you recently had a baby?
Patient: I don’t see the relevance.
Therapist Don’t you?
Therapist: Do you own any how-to-make-baby-food cookbooks?
Patient: I have a friend who works in publishing.
Therapist: Are they illustrated?
Patient: Yes. But not full page.
Therapist: Not full page?
Patient: OK, fine, full page. Full page color photographs. Are you happy now?
Therapist: Farmhouse sinks next to delicately spattered blenders? Freshly made buckwheat pancakes piled on blue china plates in the dappled morning sunlight?
Patient: Stop it. STOP IT.
Therapist: Let’s get back to your earliest memories. The first jars were brand new?
Patient: Yes. There were some Italian jars as well, with gold tops. They had no words. They were…fulsome. And they had bunches of grapes cut into the glass.
Therapist: A little bit of Tuscany at a deli on Broadway…
Patient: I bought a bunch. Then I went home and decanted everything I could find. I decanted cashews and peanuts. I decanted quinoa and I threw out the plastic bag with the cooking times and proportions, even though now I have no idea how to cook it. In a frenzy, I persisted. And then…
Patient: I poured the remains of some animal crackers into the last jar. The broken cookie bits filled less than a quarter of the jar. Crumbs fell to the floor. I felt my pupils dilate. That hurts — but in a good way. I put all the jars above the sink.
Therapist: When did the scraping begin?
Patient: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Therapist: Don’t you?
Therapist: What’s that gummy substance under your nails?
Patient: I don’t know, Sherlock, but I have a kid, so it’s probably related to that.
Therapist: When did you start the scraping?
Patient: (She exhales.) The baby was napping. I’d started washing dishes and I saw the Newman’s Sockarooni jar in the sink, its gaudy label masking that lovely glass…then I saw the glint of the jar’s golden top next to it and I realized I had a complete set! I began to peel. I worked a good two-thirds of the label off the jar. I began to sweat. I was so close. But…it was — gummy.
Therapist: So you scraped.
Patient: I scraped. Hard. I tried olive oil to loosen the glue but some of the paper stayed put. I put it through a dishwasher cycle but that only made the paper stick more. I had to give up on that jar eventually, but I was learning. The next time I used canola oil and it came off — cleanly!
Therapist: When did your husband notice?
Patient: One day I organized our child’s crayons in jars.
Therapist: Those Crayola boxes shred and it’s so hard to get them all back in the box, especially those 64 count ones.
Patient: Yes! YES! I divided the crayons by brand.
Patient: Yes. They make beeswax crayons now. All natural. I mean, who knows? But bees, you know?
Patient: At night I dream of rows of glass beside a hammock on a rainy day. I awake drenched in sweat, the sheets in a tangle, my mind in a torpor. The scent of freshly-cut grass hangs about me like a fog.
Therapist: Consider this: a jar begins as a vessel.
Therapist: And then you…
Patient: Fill it!
Therapist: But once one is filled…
Patient: I see.
Therapist: Our time is up for today. Stay away from web sites featuring farms and home-schooling. Don’t make soup stock. Guzzle water from a bottle lined with BPA — while breastfeeding. You can conquer this.
Patient: (weeping) Do you really think so?
Therapist: I’m not going to lie. Once you’re in as deep as beeswax, it’s bad. It’ll be hard work.
Patient: Thank you, Doctor. Here’s your check.
Therapist: Leave it in the jar on your way out.
Patient: I—I don’t understand…
Therapist: Don’t you? (He sighs.) You think you’re so dark with your little secret? Yeah, I’ve got jars. We’ve all got jars. No one can manage this alone. It’s too big. Who doesn’t want to sail an antique boat in Cape Cod? You think I want to be stuck in this dark little office off of Lexington Avenue in the middle of August, with the soot on the ledge and the honking of taxis, eating processed food from newsstands for lunch? Or worse, getting a salad from Chopt in a plastic container? Let me have my etchings of sailboats and yes, my goddamned Mason Jars. I—I’m sorry. Forgive me. Just leave the check in the jar and have a great day.
Patient: I’m sorry Doctor; I didn’t mean to upset you.
Therapist: Just leave the check in the jar. (beat) WAIT. Don’t go.
Therapist: The jars. You fill them and the void inside you only grows.
Patient: I understand.
Therapist: I know you do. But — you’re married.
Patient: MY HUSBAND DOESN’T UNDERSTAND ME! Well, he doesn’t understand about the jars.
Therapist: It isn’t just that. I’m your therapist.
Patient: But we could be so much more! Think of the labels for chutney, and for home-made tomato sauce, and for marbles, like an old-time drugstore’s toy counter.
Therapist: You’re crazy.
Patient: Like a fox.
Therapist: Please go.
Patient: Banjos. Ukuleles. Knitting. Weddings in barns. Square dancing. Bonfires. You want it.
Therapist: No! It’s all just close-ups taken with SLR cameras in good lighting. It’s a lie.
Patient: What is a lie if not a truth we tell ourselves?
Patient: Kiss me. I’ll give you the moon on a string; a model sailboat in a glass jar. We’ll read Time of Wonder and make love on a quilt.
Therapist: With fat pillar candles burning all round?
Patient: In front of a wood-burning stove. We’ll drain sap from maple trees by hand and have sugaring parties. We’ll lick the syrup right off the snow…
Therapist: I could be myself… No more hiding. I could leave out copies of Flea Market Décor with no shame.
Patient: Fill up my jar. Fill it up.
Therapist: No charge for today. You’re all the payment I need.
Patient: We’ll name our first kid “Mason.”
Therapist: God, you’re bad.
A crash, as they knock over a jar.
Therapist: Break it. Smash it! Right there! Don’t stop!
Strains of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre on the Air play from a Philco radio as the lovers cavort. The two sounds grow louder, culminating in an enormous smash of glass and then — static.