Oh, hello, nice to see you, have a seat — let’s stress-eat some chips together. Let’s turn ourselves, briefly, into dusty-fingered junk-food receptacles. This will force us to stop looking, for a few minutes, at the bramble of tabs we’ve had open on our internet browsers for all these awful months: the articles we’ve been too frazzled to read about the TV shows we’ve been meaning to watch; the useless products we keep almost impulse-buying; the sports highlights and classic films that we digest in 12-second bursts every four days; that little cartoon diagram of how to best lay out your fruit orchards in Animal Crossing. Eating these chips will rescue us, above all, from the very worst things on our screens, the cursed news of the outside world — escalating numbers, civic decay, gangs of elderly men behaving like children.
Please, sit down. I’ve got a whole bag of Cool Ranch Doritos here: electric blue, plump as a winter seed, bursting with imminent joy. I found it up in the cupboard over the fridge, where by some miracle my family had yet to discover it — it had slipped sideways behind the protein powder, back near the leftover Halloween candy — so now I’m sitting here all alone at the kitchen counter, about to sail off into the salty seas of decadent gluttony. The next few minutes of my life, at least, are going to be great.
Join me. Grab whatever you’ve got. Open the bag. Pinch it on its crinkly edges and pull apart the seams. Now we’re in business: We have broken the seal. The inside of the bag is silver and shining, a marvel of engineering — strong and flexible and reflective, like an astronaut suit. Lean in, inhale that unmistakable bouquet: toasted corn, dopamine, America, grief! We are the first humans to see these chips since they left the factory who knows when. They have been waiting for us, embalmed in preservatives, like a pharaoh in his dark tomb. These chips might have even been produced in the former world, in the time before the plague, when people gathered in sports stadiums, filled concert halls, touched one another’s faces, high-fived, passed around bottles and joints and phones and cash. But now they have been born into this world, into our doomed timeline, and they have absolutely no idea.
That is the great virtue of chips: They are here for us to eat them. So that is what we will do. I will put the first chip, now, into my mouth. I will set it delicately on my tongue like a communion wafer. Instantly, the flavor snaps against my taste buds — that earthy, cheesy tang — flashing like a firecracker, lighting up the whole wet cave of my mouth and radiating out, further, to fill my whole head, my whole being. These chemicals are transcendent, Proustian, as powerful as any drug: They trigger nodes of memory that stretch back years, decades, back to old Super Bowls and family reunions, back to the outside world that I am trying to forget. Another chip. Another chip.