I want to talk about liver mush. Liver mush is a breakfast meat from Western North Carolina made of boiled pork parts and corn meal. It’s my favorite breakfast meat. It’s my favorite word.

Liver mush is more than pork parts and corn meal, though. There is also sage and black pepper. But, liver mush is more than breakfast and sustenance too. It’s something close to that, but not exactly.

It’s home but not home, but not exactly.

Liver mush is more than a piece of fried pork parts and corn meal. Liver mush is more than old white dinner plates in my mom’s kitchen at the table with the tile square top. Liver mush is more than feeling the sun on the top of my face and forehead and hairline, not looking out the window because I know it will be blindingly bright. It’s almost that, but not exactly. Liver mush is just a word, but the word means nothing to almost everyone and to me it means cracking open my skull and pureeing my memories into a grey mush that makes sense to the world.

Liver mush means as close as I can get you there with me at my mom’s kitchen table. It means we ride through downtown Kannapolis past the empty law offices and clothing stores. It means we stop to see the Dale Earnhardt statue and watch people get their photos taken below him and get our photos taken below him. It means my mom’s dog is loud and mean but gets used to you fast. It means my mom’s dog wants you to rub his belly now. It means my mom wants to know what we have planned and how long we want to stay and if we’re hungry and if she can help with anything. It means she hugs you right away. It means my bedroom hasn’t changed since high school. It means you’re going to make fun of the framed National Honor Society certificate because it I worked really hard to get it, and the framed puzzle of Time Square because I cared so much about New York, and the skateboard posters on the back of the door because the men are all 50 now.

Liver mush means we skip dinner with my mom and drive to Charlotte and my mom understands but we know it hurts her and we apologize but we know it’s not enough. It means we meet D and T at Common Market and sing karaoke at Snug Harbor and D and T are still together and Snug Harbor is still open. It means D isn’t surrounded by people I don’t know and living in an uptown apartment and doesn’t offer us coke. It means he hasn’t left for California yet.

It means we have enough time to get burgers and shots at The Diamond and I drive home drunk, 45 minutes on the interstate at 4 a.m., and even though we try our hardest to be quiet, we set off the alarm and wake up the dog and my mom says, “Grahamer, you okay?” and asks if I’ve been drinking when she smells it on me and I always deny it. It means we don’t brush our teeth and sleep in my high school bed together.

It means my mom still makes us breakfast in the morning, even though we’re hungover and not hungry and have to go back soon. It means I finally convince you to try liver mush because you made it this far so, why not?

It means you say it’s not that bad.

It means you say it’s actually pretty good.

It means you’re blown away by how good liver mush is with a name like liver mush.

Every time I tell my mom I have to go back I don’t say the word home because it hurts her feelings. She says, “Can’t you stay?” and I say, “No” and she says, “I was just picking.”

In my childhood bedroom, I put dirty clothes in the bottom of my overnight bag and decide to make the bed, even though my mom will change the sheets when I leave to keep busy while the house is empty.

When I hug my mom and tell her I love her and hug her again and tell her I love her again and tell her I’ll text her when I get there and tell her I’ll be safe on the drive, I feel home but not home for the rest of the day.

Liver mush means something like that.

Graham Irvin is from North Carolina. He has writing in BULL: Men's fiction, Back Patio Press, Punk Lit Press, and The Nervous Breakdown. He wants to cook liver mush for the whole world.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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