Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cake

You’re pretty sure it’s not January anymore because the grey, rutted pavement outside your apartment window is no longer stained with road salt. But it’s still as cold as a stripper’s smile. And the trees are just as bare. The sky is stuck on the color of lead, and your neighborhood resembles a Soviet-era housing block.

You let the curtain fall back over the window and head to the kitchen. There are three cans of diet soda, a tub of margarine and some chicken stock in the fridge. Eggs. Some wilted green onions in the vegetable drawer. But no coffee. You’re cold and tired and irritable. Yes, life can really suck sometimes. Deeply and truly suck.

It sucks like one of those five-hundred dollar Dyson vacuums that remove dirt you can’t see at a price you can’t afford. Life is seemingly all four AM hip-hop and malfunctioning appliances and sick family and a looming sense of hopelessness. A sinister and nocturnal parade of problems that take your closed eyes as a signal to begin.

There is a cup of coffee left in the coffeemaker, and you heat it in the microwave. Luckily, the microwave still works. You don’t take things like this for granted anymore. You log on to the computer, which also still works. You’re in the middle of a 261-question personality inventory when it happens.

A small plate appears, held by two delicate hands. On the plate rests a still life; a confection of sliced apple and raisins and bits of walnut sautéed in butter and rum and lightly dusted with cinnamon. A fork is offered. You take it.

Your taste buds swim in a sea of flavor, delving through layers of them, one after the other. Each is vibrant and clear. Your eyes convey the questioning of one not able to cook with such delicacy. She smiles. “It’s good?” she asks.

You kiss her. You’re afraid to hug her as hard as you want to because you’re afraid she’ll break. (The washing machine already has.) You hold her and close your eyes, feeling her against you. You kiss her hair and feel the soft warmth of it against your face.

If only you and her could just be. If only all you had to do was hold her and kiss her and watch her eyes go wide with a child-like sense of wonder you have mostly lost. Something wells up in your throat.

You love her. This woman who gives a fuck about you when it seems the rest of the world is doing its best to throw you away.

In a spasm of optimism, you buy a lottery ticket later that day. Rather predictably, it is not a winner. But you’re lucky. You likely are luckier than you realize.

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