Grocery Lists Are Art (In A Ravenous Memoir Market) 

Written by Dia VanGunten
Art by Katy Somerville


Not the off-brand but the one I used to buy when we were sleeping in the love-den. For months, we camped within that screened-in porch, where an owl watched us while we slept, or made love late into the morning. August in Austin. I realize now, at my age, that you suffered for me. But I was hot in a different way back then, hot enough for you to heatstroke yourself in the Texas summertime. When the school year started, I’d rise with you and cook soyrizo tacos. I’d walk our red dog afterwards, his caramel coat gleaming in the morning sunshine. You have a long email from this time that you saved because you loved it so much. You shared it on the teacher-chat message board. Everyone said I should write it up as a children’s book. They said you were lucky to get such a massive missive outta nowhere on a sweaty day when no teacher wanted to be back at work.


Lucky you. Your autistic writer girlfriend made you breakfast tacos and sent you to school with a lunchbox and a kiss. Your over-sharer, work-shirker lover sat down at the computer and typed a story she saw on daytime TV—in vivid detail. The ups! The downs! The tears! A dog named Coconut Harry went missing off a boat and was mourned by his owner. A week later, when scientists arrived on Monkey Island, devoted to primate research, well, who should be there but a brand new honorary monkey? 

Apple Juice

It’s gotta be Martinelli’s like my dying Dad wanted, otherwise don’t bother. No wonder I love that story enough to rush to the computer for that email, which we still discuss decades later. Grief was heavy then. I wanted that phone call from the scientists. I wanted the old man to be howling on Monkey Island. 


You make the tacos now. I’m a better woman with writer’s block. Well, I’m a person. Instead of a proper partner, you have a throbbing brain-on-a-neck, but you still feed it. You bring a bowl of cherries. I spit the pits across the room because this chapter just opened up like a desert highway, and I like that pit-spitting feeling. I always have. As a child, from the balcony; from my car with the top down and the stars. k.d. lang singing about cigarettes. Carly leaned into the dash to light our cloves. Car and I were young then. Both our Dads were alive. We didn’t fear cancer. We could afford those sizzling cigarettes, hot and spicy. I eat all of my cherries, but when I look up, the bowl is full. On a roll! Clickety clack, clickety clack. Spit, spit, spit. POP, POP, POP. Pits fly with velocity. 

Pistachio Muffins 

They are bright green, and I really like that about them. You understand. 


Like my grandmother, my hair is so dark that it begins to gray prematurely. I dye silver strands to match the rest, but when I’m fully pale, I’ll go lilac or lollipop or some kinda pastel that I could never do before because my hair was black. In this lifetime, I am determined to get old. So far, so good. I was vain and reckless in past lives. I always checked out early, before I had to find out who I was, or could be, without weaponized beauty. A woman must use every weapon, every wit, at her disposal. You understand.


Haha. Nahhhhhhhhh. The vagina is a self-cleaning organism. 

Sports Bra

XL? Big. You know these titties. Don’t come home with some lacy bralette shit. No pre-teen slingshot camo. For the love of Hecate, I just need these breasts to get out of the way while I type. Don’t be sexy. I’m on a deadline, man. 

Pajama Bottoms 

I require simple cotton pants that I can destroy with my slovenly lifestyle. I did not request this Mandalorian onesie with a pouch for stuffed Grogu. 

But I accept it. This is the way. 

Mango Mochi 

I want the kind that I eat when I visit Nickie. They taste like sunshine, chewy cold discs of orange Hawaii. Did I tell you that the mangos hang from trees at the side of the highway? One day, Nickie did a crazy U-turn because she spotted Pickled-Mango Guy. Did I tell you about the mango mascarpone pizza? Did I tell you that while I was there last, I was terribly not okay because I knew I was coming home to chaos?

Moving back south, we almost died on the highway. I was sure we would. Any other driver would’ve wrecked it, but you, slow and easy, ever watchful, brought us through. It was one of those days that could have gone two ways. I woke up knowing that my fate was forking—something bad would happen on the road and I’d either make it through or I wouldn’t. Then I climbed in. Growing up, and still, safety was subject to the fickle whims of adults. The sibs and I formed a back-to-back circle against the elements. Swords out. We were the last living guards of the Night’s Watch, surrounded by whitewalkers. We were never Sweet Summer Children. 

You are the house on the hill, the one that holds its own in hurricanes; the home with the protective Grandpa-ghost that warns me to lock the door; the place where we laid our dying dog in a mountain of baffled down, puffy quilt like a dollop of whipped cream. She smiled because she knew she was worthy of feathers.