Set the table

On Friday I look forward the most to going to sleep. On Saturday, I look forward to waking up early so that I can take a nap early so that I can still be awake to waste the entire day. Not waste. Never that. Do as I please. Lose track of the hour and the moment and just be. Let the angle of the sun or the stiffness in my neck be my guide. My time-keeper.

I know I want to do something That Matters, but until I know what that thing should be, I store up my energy.

I spend Saturdays reading and writing. Searching, trolling the Internet for words that inspire me, motivate me, are original yet familiar. Are more than churning words out. I am the man in the boat with the light on the dark rolling water.

I found words this morning, more than enough of my fair share for a Saturday. I crawled out of bed after my morning nap. I brewed milk tea from Taiwan. Taiwan, my love. I broke the yolk of eggs and swirled them in a pan with some almond milk and garlic powder. I ate the last of the sprouted grain bread. Chewy with peach jam. I think of the flavor of my food and the privilege required to make tasty food. I think of my mother’s lack of time and energy and effort to regularly make food that tasted good. I think of the necessity of feeding four children and being responsible for their health and their caloric intake. I think of her relief when she talked of school lunch. One less meal to buy and plan and put together. One less thing. The older I get the more aware I become of time and money and how precious they can be. How much they can determine of someone’s life. If you let them, how much they can outweigh your other pursuits, other joys. I never felt Poor growing up, but looking back I am reminded how we had less than. My mother didn’t have the time to teach me to cook, but I became responsible for one meal a week at the age of 12. At about that time my mother had a hysterectomy and I became The Responsible One in the Kitchen. We prepped for weeks before, planning the meals and what I would cook and what groceries we needed on hand. I remember having questions but avoided going to her, knowing that my question would fuel a look of exasperation which would layer upon her already many layered expression of pain. My stepdad’s quizzical look to my questions only matched my own and I remember wondering how one grown man could be so useless. I never want to be useless.

I gained 20 lbs the winter my grandmother started to cook supper for us. I was a freshman in college and so overcome with the Food with Flavor that I ate my stress away. I spent the summer after running and swimming and sweating the heaviness off. With great Flavor comes great responsibility.

As I get older I make every effort to cook food that has value in its content and taste. I didn’t realize food could have, at many times is expected to have, complex flavor and taste until I was about 24. I started dating an Iranian-American whose family’s way with food was new and exciting to me. They combined flavors and ingredients and had words for things I could never have imagined. I was so taken in with their love. Their love for food and smells and flavors and Taste. Their love for the words that brought the whole experience to life. That gave it meaning. My life had not been like that. Meals were an obligation, a second-thought, not the Main Event. We ate food to be not hungry. So much I didn’t know. That’s why I left.

When I was dating the Iranian-American I met a Good Friend of His. I’ve never been the type to hang onto people, so I am always amazed at the years and the memories that can exist between two people. This man I met was a lawyer in NYC. His clothes and his hair and his body matched someone who has money and travel and time to drink and eat food with Taste. All of his friends were people with an Image to Present. This was new to me as well. This I was still learning. What is my Image? The Man from NYC knew and worked his Image: His parents seemed kind and genuine. He was charming and touchy. The Iranian-American and this Man had gone to high school together, and then were college roommates at the University of Michigan. This is the life so many people lead.

The man was nice, accepting of me, the New Girlfriend. He told me awkward teenaged stories to make me laugh about the Iranian-American and laughed at my new stories in turn. He bought me a drink. He put his arm around me. I was charmed, but there was an edge to him, and over this edge I imagined an abyss. An abyss filled with broken objects sitting in the dark. Something painful. Something broken underlying his charm.

I soon learned that he had a Wife. A college-Wife. The woman he met in college, whom Everyone loved, who seemed to fit the bill. They married right after college. The Iranian-American stood up with them. They flew away to NYC and took trips around the world. Weren’t they lovely. But the gossip the Iranian mother told me over tea and bread and cheese and jam in their sunny kitchen was that they were getting Divorced. Maybe the NYC life wasn’t what the Wife wanted. She hadn’t come home to the Man’s suburb for Christmas, afterall, she had gone home to her own family’s. I thought about this. For all the charm and glam the Man put on, I wondered about the Wife. Who could she be? I learned that she liked to hike, that she was planning some long trip for herself (or that she had planned), that she was independent and liked nature and seemed somehow in my mind more than the Man who charmed. I remembered the shape of her name.

This morning I found her, on the social medias. You know how the click of a click of a click takes you places you never expected. I remembered her and this story I heard of her life almost 3 years ago to the day. It’s almost Christmas time, and I do not speak to the Iranian-American, but I long for his family’s love of food and drink and Taste. I miss his father’s laugh and his mother’s serious gossip.

The Wife who is no longer a wife has reshaped her life. She keeps a blog. She’s left NYC. She’s found a purpose, a chance, a moment of her own. I’m tempted to reach out to her, to contact her. You don’t know me and I don’t know you but I feel that I must tell you that I’ve heard some about you and I felt like I knew you then. Maybe some day we’ll end up in the same space and I can tell her. Tell her what? All I want to tell her is thank you. Thank you for living this story and for sharing and for seeking something else. To you it is just your life, but to me it is Something More.

I think of all the people who question all The Things. You can question and question and question it all, but at the end of the day you can’t know. You won’t know. The first time I traveled I didn’t talk. I was Afraid. Is the world as terrible as my mother says it is, as my father’s silence seems to admit it is? Yes, but there are people mixed up in that terribleness who are Doing the Things. I think I read so I can find those people. I think I write so I can remember those people. Think of all the good things that can happen after the bad things.




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