If we needed it
“The novelty has worn off,” she says, trying to tiptoe around the subject because the subject is related to me. She’s cutting up cauliflower for soup and we talk about what makes a person eat more in winter, what makes a woman moan more eating than a man, what constitutes hibernation and what constitutes love.
The novelty wore off for me years ago, I think. What’s left is adoration of something we both saw like staring into the sun. What she thought was clever I thought was a joke and what she thought was lovely is lovely. And will always be, for all of us, for anyone who’s chosen to eat with my brother, which means my family, which means our hands, volatile, like burning potatoes or men, hot in each others’. Circling the meal, lifted to the heavens or the ceiling, depending on which is closing in on us that day, and a chorus of the word “Amen!” rings out among us, because we are hearty people even without God.
I think that no one can love a person without understanding what peril they grew up in, which is another way of saying their family. Whether they ate with their eyes clenched counting in the corner, or never ate for all of the fighting, or ate slowly, thinking of how to tell their mother who it was they loved. Whether they can tell anything about olives from oil to oil, whether their mothers were reluctant bigots in response, whether they ate with one hand while clubbing their father over the head with the other for being so thickly kind as to marry, so wretched. The first winter I starved was over my lover and I didn’t eat but he didn’t sleep and we both emerged that spring, groggy and accidentally nourished. And alone, from trying to give each other what we thought we needed, forgetting that people are well-versed in orchestrating their own survival. Alone from the necessity that glowed above our every meal, the last lightbulb we stripped from his apartment before lying down lastly in its mealy darkness.
If we roamed each other it was like feral animals in a countryside, stealing from fields whenever the moon sat a night out. Thievery is a harvest all its own. Bounty is not what one has, but the knowledge of what one could acquire at a moments’ notice, if they found it was desperately needed. “I could come up with five hundred dollars in a day if I needed to,” my brother bragged to me once. Then, before I could say he was bragging, “Anyone could.”