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Breathing the right air

Nothing brings more comfort than a bag of good things to cook, swinging under your arm as you make your way home. Somehow it blots out the rest of the world. In these moments, the entire universe consists of a late afternoon sun, a stray dog and a clump of flowers growing strange and wild in a yard. A hit of basil jumps from my elbows with each swing of the bag, a gift from one of the ladies I buy from the most. I visit markets without intention, just eyes open ready to discover fresh peas, or the first corn. Knowing that these products will disappear as quickly as they present themselves creates a certain form of excitement. Each season offers up this rhythm and without it I might become completely lost.

I think of when we were in Tuscany a month ago, feeling like such a tourist until I wandered out along the highway and found the local vegetable stand. I shoved squash blossoms and tiny tomatoes into a bag, rushing back to our room like I had robbed a bank. I made pasta with them th…

the familiar red jacket (things to never give away and things to let go of)

The kitchen windows are steamed over, lines painting down the old glass like miniature rivers. I have grapefruit marmalade bubbling in a pot, with cloves and fresh ginger and a splash of cheap cognac. It is Women's Day and I have put work aside. N is shoving a vacuum into every corner. E is making piles of her drawings and a bed for her dolls. 

The balcony door is open and cool air rushes around the house. The smell of bitter pith turning dark and sweeter fills the rooms.

I started the day with a walk to a new flower shop that is close to us. The women inside do not stare at me like I am a flounder. I buy tiny pink roses for N and a pot of pansies for E. They work in silence, hands assisting with a quick bow, the stapler, more clear plastic, two hundred rubles in change. Outside a taxi creeps up to me, tires cracking on the black ice. A man leans out of the driver's side window. He asks me where I bought the flowers and I wave behind me telling him it is just past the pharmacy. He thanks me, maybe even smiles a little.

Downstairs I see one of the security guards walking with his two year old daughter. He is a man of very few words, depending on nods and long looks to express everything he has to say. His daughter looks up at me, a red puffy coat wrapped around her. I recognize it. It was E's many years ago, and after going through the closets one day I decided to get rid of some of her old things. N sat with me making piles of things to never give away and things to let go of. 

I stare at the little girl's pale blue eyes and the curl of blonde hair that peeks from her hat. It is so strange to see a familiar object, not in a box on a shelf but warm and useful. 


There is a mound of flour on the kitchen table where I crack eggs and splash a little olive oil, stirring gently with a fork and then just my hands, dribbling in a little cold water to make the pasta dough come together. I knead it until it goes smooth, wrap it in plastic, nest it in an empty spot in the fridge.

I think of E when she was two, when that red jacket was what I pulled onto her arms before we went out. I think of her tiny face and round cheeks and eyes that stared up at me, about the sling I wore under my coat that she loved to travel in as we walked to the market. She would hold one of my fingers very tight, and then loser when she fell asleep. That was me in the checkout line, pulling for cash in my pockets trying not to wake her up, then walking home and stopping at the wine shop wandering the small place for some time until I pulled a bottle from the shelf, the owner a French man and his wife always talking with me a bit, E maybe waking up and holding my finger tight again.



I cut the dough in four pieces, rolling each out until it is as thin as a few playing cards, cutting it into long strips. E trots into the kitchen, running her finger in a stray bit of flour and touching it to her nose. She stares at me, waiting for me to lean forward to get the same.

The last piece is for her to cut into whatever shapes she wishes. This will be for the children to eat, dressed with a little olive oil and a grate of Pecorino. The rest is for N and her mother and her sister who will be here soon with tulips and cards and jackets we pile up on the bed.



Comments

Ah YES! some wonderfully happy and gentle news, M. Maybe leaving the sadness and fury re your ex behind is a good thing. Loved this post.
liv said…
These little domestic scenes that you share so beautifully that they seem to contain the smells and warmth of the kitchen are wonderful.

And look at E!! I have not seen her face for a month or so, it seems, and the baby is disappearing! That is the face of a young girl. She is growing up!

Although, as Brenda says, there is sadness and fury there for you sometimes - it is so wonderful to see when you get these pockets of tenderness and joy.

Lovely man, lovely post. Thank you.

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