The thaw

Pub date January 16, 2008
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS I was so afraid he was going to say, "I love you." I was terrified, and I sweated during sex, insisted on leaving the lights on after, and peed with the door open. During dinner I made sure there was always parsley between my teeth and onions hanging out of my mouth.

We did romantic things together, like watching football, and I tried to keep my head in the game, but it was killing me. He loved me, I could tell. At home I only listened to jaded music, like Liz Phair and Kathleen What’s-Her-Name, the Canadian. We’d been seeing each other for months, and the sweet things he said were getting sweeter — like, we were talking about a steak house, and I said, oh, it was a special occasion place, like maybe for his birthday.

"Every time I see you is a special occasion," he said.

I almost peed my pants. I almost moved to Alaska. His birthday was a couple months away. I tried real hard to get more dates with different people.

Meanwhile, the things that I said and felt were sweeter too. I meant and felt them, but love is another story, right? So I dreaded the word and feared the sentence with such focused attention that I was almost always saying it myself, by accident. The words I, love, and you pitched three little tents on the tip of my tongue, and I found myself using more hot sauce than ever.

At one in the morning on New Year’s Eve night, in his car, before a beautiful view of the city, he said, "I just can’t get used to the fact that it’s 2008."

I was still smiling New Year’s Day night, at the Thai restaurant. I’d ordered something spicy. He likes it mild. And he doesn’t much go for duck. So after the check was paid and the leftovers were all packed up for me for lunch the next day, we got into one of those talks.

I’m not ashamed of my neuroticness. My brain swirls and imagines more actively than my body might want. So? So I’m going on about what about this, what about that, you know, intangibles, unmentionables, unusualness, and the unpredictable places it inevitably leads us to, like Thai food.

There wasn’t any parsley between my teeth, but you would think … I don’t know, cilantro?

"Alls I know," Mookie said, and I quote, "is I love you."

He said this casually, offhandedly (like I like it), right while we were standing up to go, and I did pee my pants. I did move to Alaska. I blinked and was delighted to find that I was still standing. Right there! I did not die of impossibility, or freak and run, or even kick and scream.

Nor did I say, "I love you too." My tongue was empty. I squeezed him a little harder than usual, and we walked out of the place about as close together as two people can get with big coats on.

It felt quite nice to be loved. It felt casual, easy, and cellular — or the opposite of neurotic. Alls I wanted to do was get back to his house, sit on the couch with him in the dark, and watch airplanes, other people’s living room lights, and whatever else the night sky that night might have to offer.

We were almost there before I realized we’d left my leftovers on the table at the restaurant. Aaaaaaaaaah!!!!! This must be what people mean when they say love hurts. I’ll write a jaded love song about it. Every day ever since I have thought about those leftovers and missed them and mourned them and craved Thai food.

What I’ve been eating instead is everything in my freezer, because it all thawed out. In the woods, when the wind blows, my power is the first to go and the last to be restored. Five days now.

My coffee water, soups, and stews, all of it I cook on and in the wood stove, because that’s all I have. And love. You know me. I love to camp. I love to eat. I eat by candlelight, alone, and it’s pretty fucking romantic, sipping wine straight from the bottle.

My new favorite restaurant is Toomie’s. It’s cold, slow, crowded, and not as good or as great a place, placewise, as Amarin, Alameda’s other noted Thai restaurant, but the red curry has decent kick to it, and the peanut sauce works, and … I don’t know, it just kinda conjures nice connotations for me — who knows why? 2


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