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the white table

The days are not long. The nights are short. Guitars are hiding in cases, with scraps of paper tucked inside. The pen is full. There is a fresh notebook, with creamy pages. The little white desk is in the middle of the living room, a cascade of receipts and laundry perched on it.

I clean it off, have lunch as it stares back at me. This focal point, this fulcrum where my thoughts become real, this cheap folding table from Ikea. It is familiar, and patient.

(looking for) the heart of Saturday Night

A tail of fresh bread, torn and eaten in the street never fails to give me faith. When I was young and lonely it was the semolina from Ferrucci's on 1st Avenue. I might even fish an olive out of the plastic container, my fingertips oily and slick in the street as it burst in my mouth. Now, it is from a Georgian stall at rinok, the open market I visit on Sunday afternoons. Here are familiar faces - the fish sellers with their horizontal striped shirts. I point at a plump seabass and they nod, tossing it to open hands behind the counter where it will be cleaned and filleted for me in ten minutes. I mumble a few words they already know, about doing some more shopping and that I will be back. Next, a special corn flour for chadi, a Georgian version of a hush puppy for lack of a better term. Madlopt, I tell the woman. Thank you in Georgian, one of the handful of words I can use. Her surprised smile flashes at me, the polite foreigner.

At home, I peel the tough skins from asparagus, a rare treasure here. I am making dinner for my wife on a quiet Saturday night. There is cold bottle of Fiano in the fridge, waiting to be uncorked with a satisfying pop. The little one is running around in warm tights, pulling a train across the floor. It is already cold in Moscow, and we are waiting for the heat to come on. I dredge the fish in flour, a dusting of garam masala and then into the pan. They grow crisp and fragrant, as N drifts in and out of the kitchen, her face curious, her chin on my shoulder for a moment. I have been cooking for her since the very day we met. I know of no simpler, better way to say I love you than to set a carefully prepared plate of food in front of her.

At the last minute, I pull together a version of a sauce gribiche from what is in the fridge. Garlic, capers, parsley, and sure maybe a little mint is tossed in the bottom of the pan, finished with a splash of that glorious white wine and a stump of butter. It swirls and emulsifies, and is spooned across the fillets. I call her to the kitchen and she is somehow flustered and confused and busy because there is always something she thinks she must be doing right at that moment. I pour her some wine. I place a fork next to her plate. I stare at her as I always have.
"What?" She asks.
I say nothing for a moment.
"How do you like it?" I ask.
She eats a corner, nodding - then, some asparagus. I have dressed it with just a sliver of butter and a squeeze of lemon.
She nods again.


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