Nina works long and hard these days. She’s up before the dawn and out the door, leaving me in a pile under the bed covers. She pounds nails and works saws on a huge carpentry project in a distant southern suburb. It’s damn near dusk when she’s off the gnarled highway and, finally, home again.
Our time together is short. I make a dinner and we eat it together. I can make whatever I want. The heartier the better. Protein. There will be no arguments when she’s home. There will be no objections or questions. There will be no salads. I plan the menu. Two nights ago it was beef stew, perfect for the colder winds and shortening days, and to warm up the insides and fill a body with life. Last night was stewed squid with garlic and green peas, a favorite of my late grandfather. I served it with hunks of crusty bread for smearing and a plate of soft, yellow polenta. Morbido. I stirred for half an hour until it was smooth as cake batter, and drizzled over it with olive oil, salt and pepper.
I am a homemaker these days. It’s simple and plain. I do my work, typing and seated, and I do the laundry and clean the house too. Nina is out working her body into a profound exhaustion and I am here to replenish her and help her. I feel tickles of family, and home, in the rhythm of these days. I miss her. I wait by the window for her to return, the table set and a candle lit, eager to hug. The light bulbs are dimmed and the smell of dinner spills into the hallway to meet her. We do hug and we eat and, after her hot shower, she falls asleep on the couch with her foot against my thigh.
[Painting: The Green Diner by Edouard Vuillard, 1891]
I don’t have the words for the gratitude, comfort, and relief I feel when I walk down the hall to our apartment door these evenings, bone weary and covered in sawdust, to smell what Jonah’s cooked, knowing we will eat together and eat so well. I look forward to it all day, our sliver of time together over the grilled bluefish or stew or flattened pork he’s prepared with thought and love. I need food in a different way these days, and when I eat what he’s made I’m nourished in a way that only has part to do with protein and calories, but is as powerful a fuel. I feel grateful, and I feel loved.