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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…

how Don Quixote found his Dulcinea

A few thousand years ago I wrote a screenplay that was a retelling of Don Quixote. I set it in Brooklyn. Sancho Panza was a hairy little man who sounded just like Peter Falk. It was the kind of story a young man would work on late at night with the windows open, sipping good scotch, making himself laugh as he sat alone in an empty room. I showed it to friends, strangers, random people. No one knew what to tell me, just a lot of sheepish looks and no eye contact. One offered this - "I don't understand it very much - all I get is that the main character is you." 

My Quixote believes that at birth, half of a magnet is planted in a person's heart. The other half exists in another heart and depending on how these two people approach each other, they are either attracted or repelled. Love and magnets play heavy in the story, and when he does come across Dulcinea as she finishes skating at Wollman rink in Central Park he sits next to her, terrified, excited, waiting. Nothing happens. He jumps to sit on the other side of this woman as she sips her cocoa. He speaks to her, boldly convinced she knows about the magnets too. The moment disintegrates, and she runs off after throwing her rented skates at him. 

Head bleeding in the snow he heads home, defeated but satisfied he met her. 


Last Thursday I bought some sea bass at rinok, watching them gut the fish, wiping it clean and sliding a knife under the skin to make fillets. I bought sulguni from my favorite cheese lady, the one with the red hair and the missing teeth. I bought flour to make chadi, and dried fruit, almonds and walnuts. The air was cold, my breath making little clouds inside the place but I swept my hat off, feeling the smell of pickles and meat and bone on my skin. Fresh bread was baking. There were rows of sturgeon on the ice, their yellow fat like butterscotch pudding oozing from their prehistoric skins.

Outside I called E, telling her I would be there in ten minutes, that she could pack up her books and head downstairs.

We crossed Kutuzovsky and I lead us to the left.
"Where are we going?" She asked.
"To the flower shop." I tell her.
"Why today?" E asks.
"It is the anniversary of the day I met N." I explain.
"The day WE met N." She corrects me.
I laugh in the street as we yank the door open. There is the smell of carnations and lilies on us, like an old lady's perfume shelf.



N comes home, cheeks red, skin shining in the dim hallway. I stare at her for a moment, then wave my hand for her to come to the kitchen. 
The roununclus are sitting in a vase. 
She knows what they are for.



Comments

liv said…
Hahaha - that was so sweet. And now you never have to guess which side of N to sit on. You stick together no matter what or where.

And E had her own little magnet too - as she reminded you. I love it!
liv said…
PS: I forgot to say congratulations on your anniversay and I truly mean that!!!

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