by matty layne glasgow
There are days in September and October and November when I find myself sitting in a Starbucks halfway through a soy pumpkin spice latte before I even realize what I’ve done. I liken it to that stressful commute home from the heart of Houston when my brain, so worn by a day’s worth of curiosity from young writers, fails to recognize the voice to which my shoulders so shamelessly sway. “Is it chill that you’re in my head?” No Taylor, it wasn’t. My over-correction after frantically changing the station nearly swerved what integrity I had left into an eighteen-wheeler. And so too goes my relationship with pumpkin spice.
I confess: I would drink that damn latte from an Ugg boot, suck cinnamon and ginger from sheepskin, from white wool. But that doesn’t mean I feel good about it. You see, reader, I love fall—when the leaves all purple blush and maroon menace dangle from every branch fearless of their fluttery end. I swear, when I crumple them in my hands their dry flesh smells of allspice, their ash lies on the cold ground like crumbs of pumpkin scones and loaves and spiraled rolls. But if you’ve never made it to Houston, you might not realize we only have two seasons—hell’s sauna and what occasionally feels like a temperate autumn in late January. Frequently bereft of the queered foliage I so long for, I gorge on gourd-flavored baked goods and double-pumps of that spiced syrup.
Fear not, I have some standards. I’ve never succumbed to the pumpkin spice salsa; mi esposo would leave me quicker than a Houston winter. The one year I asked guapo to help me make pumpkin tamales and mole, his mother sent them back with a note that read “¿Qué es esto?” Through that day-long cooking extravaganza and mi suegra’s succinct question, I understood I do, in fact, have a problem. I am pumpkin spice basic af. That Ugg boot from which I’d drink is a relic of the legging-clad sorority girl I no doubt was in some other life. Perhaps, at times, in this life too.
There were frigid afternoons during the final year of my MFA in Ames when I swear that damn latte sang “My reputation’s never been worse, so he must like me for me.” Typical Taylor Swift post hoc, ergo propter hoc bullshit. To be fair to the latte, it never tried to be Beyoncé, and it’s fairly upfront about its inauthenticity. After all, the pumpkin spice latte steeps in everything but pumpkin; it’s utterly gourdless. The ginger-cinnamon-nutmeg-allspice-clove syrup fulfills for this Houstonian an illusion of the season I rarely get to revel in amidst the bayous. And what is basic but a broadly shared love for the way taste buds enjoy a certain flavor? In any case, apparently the winter holidays begin before Halloween now, and I fucking loathe candy canes. Reader, look what you made me do.
Matty Layne Glasgow’s debut collection deciduous qween was selected by Richard Blanco as the winner of the 2017 Benjamin Saltman Award and is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in 2019. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Missouri Review, Crazyhorse, BOAAT, Muzzle Magazine, The Collagist, Underblong, and elsewhere. Matty lives in Houston, Texas where he teaches with Writers in the Schools and adjuncts his life away.