Monday, November 15, 2010

A retreat into the kitchen

I haven’t written in awhile. Not here, not anywhere else. To be frank, I just haven’t felt like it. I realized a few months ago that all my composition was being done in the kitchen—in pumpkin bourbon cake, in potato leek soup, in Brussels sprouts and quiche with roasted beet salad. And that was ok with me. I took pride in my tangible accomplishments, in the compliments at work and from friends. I knew that I was making something of value, something that made people feel good.

Every time I’ve thought about writing, I’ve gotten a little afraid, really. It’s like when you put off that thank-you note you’ve been meaning to send—after awhile, the grotesque lateness of the note completely overrides any goodwill of sentiment, and it becomes impossible to send. Or maybe the only parallel with that example is the guilt, the sense of “supposed to” that just never becomes enough to actually do it.

I’ve been working a lot. In the last six months, maybe nine, I’ve found my place at work, and I’ve been filling it. I’ve been trying to make myself indispensable, trying to line up more people to need me. I work hard and then I come home and cook. I finish cooking and I eat, then I don’t really have much left. I talk on the phone to friends, I watch television on my computer, and I read sometimes.

I make excuses to myself for the writing. I think about how I need to move over to fiction, but I have no characters, nobody alive in my brain except the me me me. I even jotted down some notes on the bus a few days ago. I wrote a little elegy for my grandpa on his birthday in mid-October. I’ve maintained good conversations and I’ve read some great books.

I could turn this bit into an allegory for my dating life. I could pull the taffy of this piece into a two-flavor essay, the fear of writing but also of reopening myself to others. I could paint the scene in a few colors: the dull red glow of both my new humidifier and my clock radio as I can’t sleep, the light of the computer bouncing off my caramel-colored glasses, the familiar grey and purple print of my duvet cover forming a mountainous background to the computer on my lap. The startling loudness of my keys clicking away for the first time in months—it’s all there.

But I won’t. Instead, I’ll define myself in a new bundt pan; the thick, gorgeous cream that forms when butter and sugar are mixed firmly by hand; the most perfect breakfast sandwich with banana pepper, bacon, and an egg cooked just to yolky perfection; a butternut squash lasagna with basil b├ęchamel; beets so sweet they stain my hands; corn chowder with caramelized onion and andouille sausage… Composition so perfect it lasts only a few days, maybe even a few moments. I’ll take it.

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