Part One: The Romance of Memory
Leaves were falling ..Just like embers
In colors red and gold they set us on fire
Burning just like a moonbeam ..in our eyes
The night proved a poor chaperone, its nocturnal cloak allowing for a greater intimacy of conversation than would have otherwise occurred in real life. The intensity of their naked conversations meant that falling in love would happen so much faster than if they'd been near one another, able to experience the mundane along with the extraordinary. All relationships appear infallible in the beginning because apart from the joy of discovering something new, we are also hopeful, ludicrously optimistic.
"It seemed perfect," says Hélène (a pseudonym). "We talked so much, we were so attuned to one another that when we were finally physically in the same place, the reality of him swept away everything I had imagined."
Memory is oh so malleable, so full of holes, enabling us to bend it to our will so that it reveals only what we want to see.
Romances that begin with the projection of perfection based on midnight conversations have no way to scale that cliff again.
Part Two: Salt Wounds
Now I am guilty of something
I hope you never do because there is nothing
Sadder than losing .. yourself in love
One day H. says, she and Ross (another pseudonym) forgot how to talk to one another. The mutual muteness had happened so gradually, so quietly that neither realized the prevalent silence until it had fully entered their lives, insistent and insidious, propping their twosome like a three legged stool.
In the beginning, said H., they carried on those midnight conversations, talking about books and life and music and dreams. Lovers' talks. In the darkness, a thousand words were exchanged as they moved closer, inevitably, to couplehood. There was no shortage of things to say; only a dearth of time in which to say it.
H. says: "We were talking one night and he said, 'I like talking to you. You say thoughtful things." Then she says, over time, the urgent calls became routine; and once they were together, the calls gave way to the comfort of a late conversation before sleep; but eventually, over time, the conversation became rote and the topics became mundane.
"I realized that I was talking to a roommate. Not a lover. An acquaintance maybe. We were talking about salt. Salt. How do you go from Milan Kundera to saline?!"
She poses this question to me: "Why does 'honey' sound more like a nomenclature now than an endearment?"
"I don't know," I answer. And I don't.
"We don't kiss anymore. We've forgotten how. Or maybe he's forgotten to turn into my kiss and not away from it. I don't remember when we last held hands, or when he put an arm around my waist to guide me along as we walked here and there."
"I don't know," I answer. And I don't.
"Salt," she says, heart laid bare and stripped. "I remember him talking about how one of the most real moments of his life was when he was six and he laid under the tree in front of his parents' house, looking up at the sky through the wheel of his bicycle."
How can the here and now compete with the then?
Part Three: The Moment Slipped
Now, you ask me Just to leave you
To go out on my own and get what I need to
You want me to find ..what I've already had
Pork chops, garlic, lemon zest and parsley. That's what H. associates with this moment in her life.
H. was cooking dinner. Ross came home. He looked at her, then said quietly, "I am seeing someone else. I do not love you anymore."
Ross told her that he had found someone with whom he felt great affinity; their conversation had begun innocently over a shared love of John Prine, but that had eventually given way to something more intimate (and reckless).
(H now: "If he wanted to talk, why didn't he open his mouth and say something to me? I was here! I was here!?")
All H. remembers now is how her brain shut down and all she could concentrate on at that moment was the smell of burning pork chops and the tangy, pungent gremolata.
Part Four: Auden was a Fucking Idiot
Somebody said they saw me...
Swinging the world by the tail
Bouncing over the white clouds....
Killing the blues
Some time later, H. and I are observing the orange, red and golden shards of the setting sun.
"That poem by Auden you like to quote?" comments H.
"He was my North, my South, my East and West / My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; / I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong."
"The other one."
"Lay your sleeping head my love / Human on my faithless arm"
"The other other one."
Oh. That one. "If equal affection cannot be/ Let the more loving one be me."
"Auden was a fucking idiot."
I think one day (I hope one day) she will not be so bitter.
Pan Fried Pork Chops with Gremolata (adapted from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food)
2 pork chops
salt and pepper to taste
1 T olive oil
Heat olive oil in pan. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Add pork chops to the pan and cook on each side until brown approximately 3-4 minutes each side, depending on thickness. Let the chops rest for a few minutes, then sprinkle gremolata over the chops and serve.
3 T parsley
1 T lemon zest
2 garlic cloves
Toss all the ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, or use a knife and chop all the ingredients together finely.