Eight years into our relationship, I met him at the door with the same yearning to dig my fingers deep into his flesh, to get beneath his skin, that overtook me when I first set eyes on him. We had New York at our feet, big and glamorous and dirty and sophisticated and raw. Its buildings towering, crowds pulsing through its streets pumped with adrenaline. West and across the George Washington bridge and we were in a land of mountains and lakes and incredible panoramic views of the city; east and we found ourselves on the edge of the Atlantic, the sand bluffs soft and tinged with patches of wild grasses, the ocean stretching out limitlessly into the horizon.
I was floored by all of this energy, all of this endless, surprising, mind-blowing beauty, everything fresh, exciting, new. He hung a flat screen TV to the wall; stayed fixed in front of it.
New York provided us with a new setting, lifted the veil that had settled in around our comfort zone, our habits, our limits, our excuses, the whys of how we did things; it removed us from our family and friends; we sat opposite each other without words.
And I found myself opposite this man that I loved- with a force that would make my heart collapse deep into my gut whenever he left, leaving me grasping for him, grasping for air- but with whom I finally realized (and I think I was the only one surprised) that I had nothing in common, and all of a sudden, it seemed that this love- big, large and inexplicable- might not be enough.
We grew in opposite directions as I navigated through my twenties, as he progressed from his mid-twenties to mid-thirties; we spoke different languages; we failed to build bridges across the abyss that formed between us.
I felt at home with him, in his scent, in his touch, in his presence. I did not feel secure.
I had made myself so small, in my needs, in my requests; he had taken up all the space. My voice was tiny, silent; I gave in, always. I had become this tiny girl crouching in a corner in a dark cave, and there was no light and I was all alone, and I was so very lonely.
One day we were driving across the Verrazano Bridge, and the river was dark and muddy below us, and I looked for openings in the railings. And I remembered reading that when jumping from a bridge the water hits your body like a thousand knives, and I looked down at the river and thought, just how long is that moment.
It was a hard, hard year. There were also moments of joy: my friend’s daughters rushing at me with unbridled joy, and my neighborhood farmer’s market on Sunday mornings, and cheap Chinese takeout eaten luxuriously in front of the TV, and a (slight) financial ease we hadn’t had previously. But I couldn’t project a future with him, and that made the future seem so impossibly bleak, and instead of holding my hand, holding me close, he pulled away in anger.
I came close to packing my bags a few times; I couldn’t leave him. And then, my sister-in-law was pregnant with her second, and as his birth approached, I started making plans to travel.
He said: Go, Go, Go.
He said: Stay there. For a month, or two, or three. Stay there, and we’ll see.
And my heart broke into a thousand pieces, and I brought the suitcases up from the basement, and I began packing.
[to be continued...]
Adapted, slightly, from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home
This is so simple and so lovely, as is typical with Jamie Oliver’s recipes. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, or whatever cold, white and comforting thing you desire.
1kg (2.2 pounds) rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into large chunks
200g (1 cup) soft brown sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange (I used a lemon)
100g (1 cup) plain flour (I used spelt flour)
100g (3.5 oz) cold butter, diced
100g (1 cup) oats
2 pieces of stem ginger, chopped (optional; I left this out)
Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Place the rhubarb and half of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Add the orange juice and zest, put a lid on it, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for around 5 more minutes, until the rhubarb has softened slightly. Spoon into an ovenproof baking dish or individual dishes and spread out evenly across the bottom.
Make the crumble topping: Using your fingers, lightly rub together the flour and butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the oats, the rest of the sugar and the stem ginger. (Alternately, you can do this in a food processor: whizz together the flour, butter, sugar and stem ginger; then add the oats for the last 10 seconds.) Sprinkle the crumbs over the rhubarb and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the rhubarb is bubbling up and the crumble is golden.