The phone rings as I’m vortexed inlethargy wondering how to spend a lazysummer evening. She says, “Are the pots allclean? I’m coming over. We’re going to cook.” “Cook what?” “You’ll see.” I wash the pots. All of them. The sun is 30 degreesup in the western sky.
She shows up, pounding once, her whole body, back first, onto my door. I let her in. Her Granville IslandMarket bags overflow her arms. She sighs and grits her teeth and squeezes out, “Bags—now. White wine—now.” I comply. Apparently tonight I’m her clam chowderlove slave. Who am I to argue. The sun dives [at sun speed] towards the westernhorizon clouds.
The clams have therich vibrancy of self-sacrificingliving mollusks waiting for the perfectopportunity to give themselves for us tonight. I’m to rinse theselovely clams. Not TOO much though. A certain amount ofsand is to be expected —and welcomed! She says, “Think of FromHere to Eternity.” Okay. I do. Really, I do. The sun eases intothe western horizon clouds.
The baby nugget potatoes AREN’T to be peeled. Just washed. With my hands, nobrush. “Cut them into quarters, and take off yoursandals,” she says. She’s lounging onthe bed with her feet up on the floor pillows that rest on the footof the bed. I didn’t have time to put it up into the couch. She rests her chilledglass against her neck between sips. Her sandals are long gone. Her toenails are mauve. God help me. The sun is gone as a pink wash meanders around the westernhorizon.
“Fry the bacon over one-third heat,” she mumbles with her eyes closed. Her white light cottonzippered sweater vest is gone leaving just her [mainly]burgundy paisley silk camisole. It isn’t the sometimeleaning forward to check on my progress. It’s the leaning back. The arching of theback, combined with arms stretch or coy gravity plummet of the right strap off her shoulder. Midnight blue creeps up from theeast horizon.
“No shirts allowed,bud, for the mixing phase. That’s the law.” “Yes, constable.” She rises, approaches, dips her finger into the remainingwine and flicks it in myface. “More wine,” she growls. I pour. Actual stars appear out the window, despite the city’slight pollution.
“Shorts off for the simmering,” she states, merely matter-of-factly, as if she’d said, “You’re almost outof eggs,” or, “I forgot my hat athome.” When I turn, her tennis skirt has vanished to reveal my missing Daffy Ducksilk boxers. I was going to wearthem tonight, until I discoveredtheir absence, so faded cotton boxersbeckoned me. I’m to stir the complicated chowder after she explainedto me, in intricate detail, the precise spicesand fine ingredients —from memory! My ire rises in jealousy of the last one [ones?] to make her chowder. Just breathe and stir. Breathe and stir. Days go by as I stir and she returns tolie down, eyes closed, both hands resting the base of her wineglass on her belly. Thunderclouds appear out of nowhere.
Months have passed. Her wine’s done andrefilled. She’s setting out candles and cutlery on the coffee table. And wow! a glass ofwine for ME. She’s down to monosyllabicutterances now: “Scoop. Bring. Feed.” I scoop, transport the bowlsover, sit, spoon the rich soup into her mouth as she sits cross-legged, wiggling her mauvetoes, eyes closed, sometimes holdingonto the spoon with her teeth a little too long. But then, how long is the RIGHTlength to hold? Extricating the clams from the brothy shells takes some time, but she shows patience. Whenever I try to have a spoonfulmyself, she opens her eyes and stares daggers at the moving spoon. When I return to priorities, her eyes close again. I take to overloadingthe spoon, sipping the excess and giving her therest. If she knows, she doesn’t let on. I guess this is within thebounds of the permissible. The lightning grows closer, gets brighter, and we start hearingthunder as hints and murmurs.
Her bowl’s done. “More,” she whispers. My bowl begins to empty next. I’m hungrier, so as I steal from her spoon a little more eachtime, she gets less, but no eyes open, no complaints register. Her toes drift now in an ebbing and flowingmanner. The thunder rumbles the windows now as lightning silhouettesthe buildings across the way. The CD, which I never noticedeven being on, stops abruptly. I don’t even remember what was playing. Candlelight only glows in apartmentliving rooms and bedrooms across the way. As the clouds passover my block, the lightning daylightsthe room and rattles the candleholders.
One scoop left. I’m dead now. I give her the wholething, almost apologetically, then I wait. Is she a preying mantis? Must I run for cover? Just go do the dishes to avoid her wrath? Take out the garbage? Clean out the crispers in the bottom of thefridge? She opens her eyes and says merely, “Here.” She lies back, grabbing my hand, pulling me to lieon my side next to her. She slides my righthand under her camisole, resting it over hernavel [studless tonight] with her hand over mine, sliding my hand in slow tight circles as her breath rises and falls, ebbs and flows. She turns her head, places her nose asidemine and whispers, “Rest” as the thunder rollsnorth and the remnants of the lightning air stay inside the window, and mix with the saltchowder scent in a warm front above the bed.
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