Moby Dick

The east wall run the current kitchen. Yeah. For reals. It's a stylized filter so you don't think it's so bad.

One of the pre-identified risks in this project is the possibility that I will not stay married. A disruption of this magnitude could fray the loosely woven cloth, nay, the net, of our union. At our core, the Spouse and I are incompatible.

To get this particular project moving–this project that has sat simmering, fermenting, fomenting and even festering for nigh on a generation–I extracted a promise. It was really quite clever of me. I asked that for my birthday present, the Spouse would give me boss status on the project. Final say on any disputed decision.

It was helpful that we were at the beach, that there was a post-sun beer or two and a lovely bottle of red that we drained along with grilled sea and farm fresh fare. With the Beast splayed on the cool tiles of the oddly large and mildly dysfunctional rental kitchen, his baleful hound dog eyes tracking the slow merry-go-round of the ceiling fan and with the red sun flaming the window over the sink (with a view of a yellow brick corporate mall that included the Piggly Wiggly) signaling the end of my birthday, a “yes” was extracted.

Yesterday we saw the kitchen elevations. And I wasn’t blown away. I was a little surprised. I thought that I would hear choirs of angels. Nope. No celestial movement.

Kitchen elevation of east wall. All cabinets.
It was the great white wall. A wall of cabinets that stretched to the very top of our ten foot ceilings. A great wall of white that ensconced and cocooned the rangetop. I railed against it. I was Ahab who needed to destroy that great white monster.

Working with the architect, we moved some storage blocks off of the counter. We replaced some closed cabinets with open shelves. We decided that the bottom cabinets would not be white. It was a great solution. We picked out some stuff, scheduled the next meeting and went about our day. But still, I wasn’t settled.

After work, I walked into the kitchen and imagined the storage space at the top of the room. What would I put in those cabinets? I’d need a real ladder to reach them. I stretched my hand above my head, as far as I could. I opened the current cabinets and stood on my tippy toes. I could barely touch the third shelf of these low ones. I could neither see nor touch anything in the back. I looked up to the ceiling again. It looked like a shear rock wall that I had no idea how to summit. I felt closed in. I felt claustrophobic.

I shook off the future kitchen plans and turned to the current meal plan. I worked on getting dinner together in my borderline decrepit kitchen. It was comfy. Most everything was in reach–mostly because the footprint was confined. Stuff was either right there or not in the room. But still, it was manageable. I was managing.

I plated the arugula, topped it with the burrata and scattered halves of heirloom cherry tomatoes and a few red onion strings around the mound of cheese. I crushed black pepper over the top and rained sea salt. I sliced the leftover roasted chicken and placed it on the other side of the plate. I drizzled a lemony pesto sauce on the chicken and finished the burrata and arugula with olive oil and a drop of the good balsamic.

The Spouse and I sat down to eat. I poured the wine that he had opened. I said that I wasn’t sure about the big wall of white. The Spouse said that he was surprised when I didn’t object to the enclosed exhaust hood. He was surprised because when I showed him images of what I liked, a hearth surround was not on the list. In fact, he noted that I liked the clean lines of an exposed stainless steel hood reaching to the ceiling and disparaged the hearths fashioned to look like a pizza oven or a fireplace.

He knew this because when I swiped through dozens of pictures that I amassed online, those times when I thought his nodding head was a signal to move along, he was actually paying attention. And that his nods indicated that he understood. 

Now I saw the white monster in its true form. It was the closed-in range. I wanted freedom to cook and create, but the design of the cabinetry was closing in.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t know he was listening. But he was. And he fixed it. What a dope. Me, that is.

So, really, the secret to our marriage is that we are incompatible. At least that’s what I say it is. And I’m in charge of this project.

Terminally A

A foreboding exit from the gates at the airport.

She was ecstatic when his mother texted back a, “YES!”, punctuated with a smiley face. She was going to be in the greeting party. Airport reunions were romantic. Like Love Actually.

She carefully meted out her hair product to hold her waves while still letting them gaily bounce. Not too stiff, just a jauntily released coil when she turned her head. After she positioned her Santa hat, she rewrapped a few strands of curl on her hot iron. Everything would be perfect. She looked a bit wistfully at the special lashes. She loved how they looked, but he thought they looked phony. She lightened. She’d wear them on New Year’s Eve. He’d be down with it for a party. She put gloss on the middle of her top lip to feature her Cupid’s bow. So selfie ready!

She climbed in the back of the Rover with his little sister. Madison was the only member of the family who was indifferent to her. She felt that his sister was exhibiting classically petty tween jealousy. Maybe Madison didn’t appreciate having an extra sister since his parents loved her. Maybe Madison was out of joint because her brother had another girl in his life. Her own squad agreed with her analysis. She was the insightful one among her friends.

Beau’s plane was due in at 3:40 p.m. They had to leave at 1 p.m. to be sure to get there, park and be at the gate for the reveal. She and his mom chatted about how much they missed him. He left in August, so it’d been four months. He didn’t make it home for Thanksgiving because he had papers to research and exams around the corner. He’d been so busy the past few weeks that he’d barely responded to her texts and no longer hearted her Instagrams–even when she tagged him.

His mom said that he’d been stressed, but that she was so happy that he was able to share Thanksgiving at a classmate’s house. Two or three of the “out-of-staters” were generously taken in by her family. Today, though, they’d all get to catch up, hashtag IRL–or as his mom said, “in person.”

Madison barely looked at her, but she was okay with that. She chatted on with his mom about her college applications. Beau’s mom was always so supportive. When she texted his mom that she’d like to surprise him with the family, she got an immediate invitation.

The dad dropped them at the arrivals entrance at the airport. He left them to park the car. They walked into the airport and Beau’s mom eyed the monitor. She couldn’t find his flight until she remembered there was a connection in Atlanta. There it was. Arriving on time in Terminal A at gate 5. They posted up to wait for the plane to land.

She sat next to his mother. Madison sat across from them. So annoying.

She pulled out her phone and took a selfie and set the location to the airport. She selected the filter that made her eyes look brighter, tagged Beau and captioned it “Having myself a merry little Christmas.” There was an immediate fifteen or so likes. She put the screen in front of his mother’s face. The mom smiled and nodded, but was distracted by Madison’s childish self-isolation. She didn’t know why the mom didn’t just make Madison behave. If she had kids someday, she’d make sure that the family stuck together. Then the dad joined them. He announced that Beau’s flight had landed.

They walked up to the gate exit. They’d have to wait for him to cross the line and enter the teary, kissing transition space. She stood just to the left. She wanted him to turn to her and be so surprised. His parents very kindly stood a few feet back from her. They knew it was her show. She hoped that they had their phones at the ready so they could capture their airport embrace after so many months apart. She left her phone in her bag. She couldn’t get a shot of them together. She was getting antsy.

A few people trickled out of the safe part of the corridor into the general population. Then a few more. This was first class. There was a pause and then the bodies came fast and furious. She quickly scanned the faces. She looked up higher. No reason to look at the people under six foot-two. She ran her tongue along her teeth. She knew they were clean and shiny, but it was a habit. Clearing the decks. She tasted the last hint of the wintergreen mint. That was their favorite cover up. Usually between themselves after spicy pizza, but sometimes to hide the evidence of booze. Next semester, she was going to see him at school and drink as much as she wanted like the other college students. Maybe they’d screw later in his dorm room. That seemed very grown up to her.

She glanced back at his mom. She was trying to share a smile, but the mom was still looking at that selfish Madison. She was on the right, in opposition to the rest of them. Ugh. What a drama queen that kid was becoming.

Then, there he was. She took in a breath and blew out through her plumped shiny lips. He crossed the line, and she waited for him to see her. But he looked right. Right at Madison who squealed and ran into his outstretched arms.  Madison threw her own arms around his neck as he lifted her up and swung her around, a complete 360°.  The parents walked up to welcome him, and she found herself alone on the other side of a parade of people with their wheelies and their bags, some stopping to share hugs and others powering through to the baggage claim.

His mother gave him a hug over Madison who still clung to his neck, her legs wrapped around his waist. The mom pointed over the crowd to her. She watched as he looked over at her and then jerked his shaggy head back to his mother. He shook his head in an agitated way. Madison looked over at her, still draped all over her big brother. She narrowed her eyes and slightly turned up the edges of her mouth.

Then she knew what only Madison and her brother knew. Her smile faded. She dropped her head a bit, and she navigated her way through the crowd to the family who would give her a ride home.

V.D.

that stupid bad-guy prince from Frozen being mean on a valentines card.

Somebody asked me what I was doing for Valentine’s Day. We were in the kitchen at work. People were talking about their weekend plans–especially looking forward to a federally induced 3-day weekend.

“So, you have plans for Valentine’s Day?”

I was in the midst of my beeline for the coffee maker. I came to an immediate and full stop. The question halted me, and, before I could check myself, I said that Valentine’s Day was a bullshit holiday.

Now everyone in the kitchen froze. The only sound was the very faint whirring of the microwave in the background. Someone was making oatmeal, I think.

I realized what I did. I spoke bad about that (b.s.) holiday of romance among people who were primed for romance. Or pined for romance. Or thought that they were supposed to participate in this external marker for romance.

And here I was, offering grumpy-Sanders, bellicose-Trump pronouncements on hearts, chocolates and flowers. On overpriced dinners for amateurs who only go out once or twice a year.

Truthfully, I like chocolates and flowers and fancy dinners. I often buy them myself. It was part of my training, because my truly loving spouse does not show unending devotion via these symbols. [Except for the dinners. We do that together. They are fun. We like to eat. And drink fancy drinks. And wine, too.] We have our own way of maintaining civility and sparks just shy of an incendiary device as part of our long term Waltz of the Incompatibles.

So my highly attuned senses dismissed the idea that V-day is important to show love in your life. Dismissed it a little too quickly and with a bit too much fervor.

Someone broke the silence and said, “I’d think you’d be like that about Valentine’s Day.”

I really appreciate that “do what you want” attitude. So, you all do you.