MASH and the Quest for Truth on Graph Paper

by Sophie Govert


          I remember MASH got popular in sixth grade, right at the time we started learning about linear equations and ran into our classmates at Rite Aid buying one‐centimeter grid paper notebooks. We played obsessively, adding categories to acquire the details of our destinies, who will design my wedding dress, what color will my door be, what will my true love do for a living.Maya Sherman’s future played out again and again to land her in a HOUSE in LAKE SUPERIOR, married to JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE but sometimes also ZAC EFRON or COLIN L from elementary school who moved. She must’ve cheated somehow, to score a destiny like that.
          My various futures predicted GREEN and RAINBOW wedding dresses and that I’d marry PERCY JACKSON (NOT REAL), that I’d live in LONDON or perhaps VIRGINIA, that my future occupations would involve espionage and sometimes skunks. I cleaned my room last week and found old games scribbled on the back of Pre‐algebra homework, do‐it‐yourself fortune telling in splotchy purple pen. I have a good life set outagainst those linear functions, the circled words straight forward as the graphs they crowd around.
          I went to a bar mitzvah last week and at the reception I hid for long stretches oftime in the bathroom. I sat on a closed toilet lid in the second‐to‐last stall, focused on breathing through my mouth and on texting my friend Jack who lives across time zones and puts up with me from far away. I’m not really a party personI told him.
          He replied, No way, reallyand then That was sarcasm.
          I ordered an Italian soda from the minibar as dinner was served and imagined my entire life playing out like this: attending weddings and funerals and college reunionsand baby showers from a public restroom, clinging to lifelines such as friends who know you don’t want to be where you are and help distract you from it. MASH says I’ll wear a GREEN wedding dress, but you’re not supposed to spend your wedding hiding in a bathroom.
          A boy at the bar mitzvah flirts with me, mostly because we have a mutual friend who’s been raving about introducing us, and I sort of smile and sort of feel sick and then excuse myself to the coat closet, to send two texts: one to Mom, time to goand one to Jack, I’m running out of battery but thanks for distracting me you’re sweet.
          “So that boy at the bar mitzvah was trying to ask you out,” Mom says later, when I’m sprawled on my bed and she’s fitting my crumpled dress onto a hanger. MASH once predicted I would live in an APARTMENT in WASHINGTON DC with A CROCODILE as a pet and ONE kid, but despite all the meticulous planning I’ve done I didn’t plan for this: what happens when a boy flirts with you and you’re supposed to flirt back, because you
owe it to your mutual friend to at least tryexcept you’re still a little hung up on a someone from school who is neither 1. PERCY JACKSON (NOT REAL) nor 2. a boy.
          After I figure that one out I think I’ll write an essay about love and pizza boxes and the Venn diagram that is those two entities, I think I’ll write an essay about PERCY JACKSON (NOT REAL) and LAKE SUPERIOR because MASH is easier than the truth. The truth being that the control I thought I had over my life is not the control I do have. The truth being that the control I do have looks something like this: Jack and I haven’t spoken in a few days and I send him another text complaining about the weather and it’s probably worse over there, right?​ The truth being that I will probably spend a lot of my lifetime hiding in public restrooms and that I am going to have to resign myself to that fact.
          This morning I wake up and stare at the ceiling, trying to remember whether the head‐between‐your‐knees trick is for motion sickness or nausea, thinking about how I read an essay somewhere that said When I’m stuck on a particular scene I make a character puke, like what happens in real lifeand then it clicks and I roll out of bed and stumble into the bathroom and kneel over the toilet and heave. Nothing comes out,which I guess is good, but isn’t vomit supposed to be what happens in real life?
          Before I leave for school Mom shoves college letters in my hand—

speaking of the uncertain future, says my running inner monologue—one’s from NYU, and the purple sticks out. I can’t believe in all our games of MASH we never planned for college or nausea or friends who distract you during parties. I wonder if COLIN L played MASH at his new school and whether he wrote MAYA SHERMAN down as an option for future spouse, but maybe it’s stupid and overly sentimental to think he did. If it was possible to quest for true love or the truth on graph paper, you’d think people would have figured it out by now.


Author Biography: Sophie Govert is a Californian poet and essayist whose inspiration lies in audiobooks, pine trees, and the vicarious exhilaration of uplifting sports movies. She currently serves as the managing editor of Sprout Magazine.