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the lost years

I spent almost 25 years living alone in New York. There might be a moment on a shoot, when it became clear we would be running late. Phones were slid from pockets, as the crew had hushed conversations with their loved ones. That solemn, apologetic tone was the same no matter who was talking as they answered the question "When will you be home?" I had no one, nothing but an empty apartment and some dirty dishes. I had half-written books, and guitars leaning against the walls. There was film in the cameras, waiting to be developed.

I have almost no memory of these years now.

Right now, V is sick. Nothing terrible, but enough to stay home and parade around the apartment in her favorite pyjamas. N is cooking various treats for her, unable to predict which one she will actually eat. The doorbell rings, and it might be a doctor visiting from the local clinic but it is her sister. The rooms are full of conversation and fresh cups of coffee. I try not to step on the toys that are a…

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The yarmarka (farmer's market) is about to close. Some of the people are already packing up, offering their last bruised tomatoes at half-price to anyone walking past them.  I am wandering, staring at bunches of herbs, at the same old options - cabbage, pepper, potato, garlic, apple, cucumber. But then I see a pile of peas. The season must have come early this year. I buy a kilo, and some mint. I know what is for dinner. We have not had it in eleven months.

At home, I rip the bag open, showing them to V. She stands by the kitchen table, eyes wide. I crack one open, showing her the little rounds inside. She plucks one out, her pinky pointing to the ceiling.
"Try it." I tell her.
She does, but she does not like it.

I pull out a bowl for them. She jumps up and down a few times. V always wants to help in the kitchen. I pull her to my lap, and we begin pulling them out from the shells. She learns quickly, tossing them with a flourish into the bowl, a few cascading to the floor. She goes down to find them, calling them her sweet little children - calling to those lost peas, with some magic plan for them to roll back to her tiny outstretched hand. And then she climbs back up, grabbing a fresh one from to finish.

I will make a strange pesto from them, halfway between the French pistou and the Italian one, a bastard child recipe of my own that could easily offend grandmothers in two countries, but I know how good it is. The peas will be sauteed very gently in good olive oil with fresh garlic and a pinch of dried chili flakes, just until they are not raw any more. I will blend them with mint and parsley, with pignoli nuts and pecorino, olive oil, salt and pepper. And then some of the pasta water goes in, that is the best secret that should not be a secret. The paste will be bright green, emulsified and luscious. It will stick to the pasta, a jade bath of spring with some sharp white wine to wash it all down.

As the plates are filled, I ask V if she wants some but she wants plain pasta, not even with a little bit of cheese that falls like snow on them. Just olive oil, and she digs her fingers into the slick mess. N is relaxing into hers, and her Mona Lisa smile is back. I have an odd moment of recognition, that these are the first fresh peas V has helped me prepare, that we will be able to do the same thing next year and the year after that. Maybe she will learn the whole recipe from me, making it her own, maybe deleting the chili, maybe using a different shape of pasta. I sip my wine, and stare at both of them the way I always do.


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