There is a bottle of sriracha sauce on the dining table, and it hasn’t been used for a while. Over time, a layer of water has separated out and sits on the surface of the sauce.
I give the bottle a little nudge, causing a ripple to shimmer across the pool of semi-transparent liquid.
There are moments these days where I feel like this bottle of sauce. I have sat in stasis, and my good bits have separated out and sunken, unreachable. All I can tap on is that runny juice water right at the surface, insufficient to spice up any meal, making all the food it touches soggy.
In the New Yorker, Jill Lepore writes on burnout. She compares the condition to Elijah in the Bible: “Everyone sits under the shade of a juniper tree, weeping, and whispering, ‘Enough.’” What the burnout literature will tell you, she notes, is that it is everywhere. But, “if everyone is burned out, and always has been, burnout is just… the hell of life.”
All the bottle of sauce needs is to be vigorously shaken, for the clumps of concentrated hot sauce to mix with the liquid once more. The sauce comes together as one, ready to deliver that “delicious, spicy taste” promised on the label.
It helps to remember that, before this bottle ended up on the dining table, before it was first opened and used, before it lay cradled in the paper bag on the way home from the grocery store, before it got placed in the cart, it stood waiting on the shelf alongside all the other sriracha bottles. There, depending on how long the bottle waited, the sauce might also have separated out into a film of water.
It doesn’t deter a shopper from reaching for the bottle. Sriracha is sriracha.