Ankle crossed beneath my knee, lying in bed like an aborigine stands in the Outback, I contemplate the ceiling. The mattresses—two singles shoved together and covered with a flannel sheet—are lying on the floor. You are lying next to me talking about the future.
“What are some things you want to do in your life?” you ask. I don’t know how to answer. I don’t feel like talking about the future. I tell you as much, tell you I am enjoying the details of this different place: grime in the white sinks, cracked lips, cats sneaking into my lap, wanting to be pet, purring, humming heaters, finicky temperature controls on every faucet, shortness of breath when I run, rock and now snow everywhere. The details are worth noticing because they make this moment real and new. The details make this place different. A change in familiar routines brings inspiration unavoidably. I enjoy noticing the details.
I have been thinking too much about the future lately. Tonight is tonight and that is how I like to live.
So, I read out loud to you, twenty pages from Winter. In the book, September 30 ends like this: “Time to swat a slow, late-night, leftover-from-the-day fly. Time to go to bed.” But you are already asleep.
Darkness settles bright afternoons and signals the coming of dinner. I have been cooking more lately and I enjoy experimenting. You’d be happy with stir-fries every night, or pasta with a simple sauce, or beans wrapped with vegetables in a warm tortilla. You’d put everything together, turn all our leftovers into an original mash. You don’t mind cauliflower in marinara and I don’t mind you, but I like to experiment. You don’t seem to complain.
In fact, you even lick the pan from some of the things I cook: seared chicken thighs seasoned with rosemary and sage and finished in a lemon, brown sugar, rum glaze; lamb and dried chanterelle meatballs simmered in an eclectic marinara ladled over spaghetti, sharp cheddar to taste; Thai chicken and vegetables, made tangy with rice vinegar and sweet with fresh basil and coconut milk, brown rice soaking up the sauce. You add verve for Sunday breakfast, dessert, or garnish: egg-heavy crepes with homemade blackberry jam, peanut butter, a drizzle of yogurt; apples stuffed and baked with raisins, walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon; caramelized pears to go with the creamy Stilton soup, your mother’s recipe.
Of course I eat twice as much as you! I’m quite large after all. Still, leftovers in yogurt containers dominate the fridge. Lunch is best this way. Melded flavors grow in unison during a night of rest.
Neglected dishes grow too, but I find the warm soapy water very cleansing in the late morning, after breakfast. If I have a shiver from looking outside—lately I do—the dishes warm me up. The water is either scalding or freezing, so it’s scalding. It feels good to wring out the dishcloth and wipe the counter clean. Snow gives me the same emotion: appreciation for stains being covered up.
The one thing, though, that will not go away is the smell of garlic on my fingertips. You don’t seem to mind. You love garlic anyway. You’d put garlic in French toast if I let you. Sacrilege!
Tonight we order pizza. Tomorrow I’m not sure. The weather forecasters lied to us today. They predicted more snow but we received mostly sunshine. I’m not complaining. We hiked for a few miles up No Name Canyon. The trailhead is a ten-minute walk from our house. It was early afternoon. You had spent the morning working on photography projects. I had spent it yelling at the television, the referees, the quarterback. It was time we got out of the house.
Footprints dented a trail into the snow. We only saw a few other people: one woman with her old black dog and one man wearing long-johns beneath his running shorts, a neon-green beanie on his head. They were both going the other direction. We passed with a word or two and then we had the trail, the river, the snow and ice to ourselves.
Everything was so brilliant. Frozen water casts such bright reflections. You noticed icicles hanging from a patch of heavy green moss on the side of the river; it was a delicate sight. Afternoon sunshine barely held the edge of the canyon, but all the high walls and upper regions were regaled in such splendorous light that even the river bottom, drawing on a million different facets of reflection, was illuminated as if by fire. Fire ate every shadow from the ground up while snowflakes fell in plumes from windblown branches. Fire crawled up the tree trunks and slide-banks while water flowed down the valley. Following this same natural order, we continued to hike, not knowing where or when to stop.
At some point we did stop though. It was an arbitrary spot, just another section of trail. We were unsure if we wanted to continue around the next bend, couldn’t think of any reason why, or why not. We stood there for a while, waiting for the sun to dip behind the canyon walls, waiting for the noise of the river to change, waiting for something; I don’t know what. Then, without much thought, we simply turned around and started back.
I liked this. I liked it even more when, returning to the trailhead, we discovered an informal map showing the trail winding immortally north, without any obvious end. There may have been an end somewhere, but it was not on this map. As far as I was concerned, the trail went on forever.
The dough and crust and sauce and toppings pale in comparison to Waterfront Pizza, the parlor of Port Townsend legend. The pesto is, as expected, underneath the cheese instead of on top. The sausage is not linguica. But, as you remind me, I should try to appreciate these differences instead of detest them. I know you are right.
When we are done eating there are barely any dishes to do, so we play cribbage on the sofa instead. The hour quickly grows late. We brush our teeth and flop into bed. You ask me if I will read out loud to you. I grab the book that rests on the floor and clear my throat.