The Punchbowl


Monday in Brooklyn.  The ‘hood as you might think of it, and deeper in it than I usually am.  Dinner at Peaches – soul food – bar-be-que  and macaroni and cheese too, and we were back relaxing in a living room that, in Manhattan, would cost more than my entire monthly paycheck.  Two Ikea couches forming an L, extending in two different directions from the same corner.  He was on one, caramel chords and a white tee shirt, stains slightly visible under the arm he used to hold up his cigarette, smoke twirling with a deceptive elegance in the air.  I was on the other couch, crosslegged, leggings and paisley socks that matched a cowlneck sweater which seemed to be flipping my hair in just the right way.  (Why does it only look this good when it doesn’t matter?) And I was holding something close to my chest, something I picked up, taking his spot on the couch – a stuffed animal Yoda.  I had just finished talking, talking, talking, and now it was my turn to listen, to hear and to hold Yoda.  I was listening, but they were words I already knew.  It seems to me that the older the friendship, the less surprising the advice, and proportionately the harder it is to follow.    And behind his head I could see a photo that reminded me of one I’ve taken and a feeling I’ve felt more than once, of looking up at the tops of trees with the sky glowing brighly behind them, seeing each individual trunk rising slim and alone like Northern California redwoods do to meet the sky, knowing that a forest of trees just like these streched for miles and miles and miles beyond…

The bar was packed.  It was Thursday, and everyone who worked in a big shiny building and wore cornflower blue was having their holiday party, and we were 5 girls who didn’t belong, or did, in the sea or suits.  We talked about sequins, laughed about boys, mused about what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives, and decided that we should play a game of pool.    We passed the sticks between us, playing against each other while coaching the other team on her technique. The game went on and on, the lead, if you can call it that, being passed back and forth because of skill and luck and some serendipitous combination of the two. Soon half the room was involved – giving pointers, gawking, or just chuckling to themselves or commenting to one and other “the blonde has great form.” Some tried to ply us with accents, bad jokes, and liquor, but most knew better.  Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister…

It was a Sunday in every sense of the word.  The morning light came into the window slowly, politely giving way to the afternoon sun.  I threw on an oversized sweater and clipped my hair up, we strolled the street picking up a few things for breakfast, talking about all the places we’ll go next time for dinner and drinks and brunches when it isn’t the weekend before finals.  Back at the apartment we were scrambling eggs, the coffee was dripping, the news was on (He likes to watch the news.)  After breakfast we sat down on the couch, side by side on blue velvet, resting two painted mugs, steaming with coffee, on an old shipping trunk. He read articles, footnotes, cases, and other things I don’t miss.  I penned Christmas cards, chuckling occasionally to myself as I mentioned an old running joke, smiling as I wrote to you about this scene with his hand on my knee…

And tonight we were talking about our Christmas party, the afterglow spilling from Saturday to Sunday to Monday now, the way it should.  There were cupcakes, red velvet, covered with foil on the table, and decorative bows strewn about just so around the hostess gifts – wine and liquor.  I was talking about when I might move all my things out from Michigan – my candy apple red Kitchenaid mixer and my 12 place settings of formal dishes – someday, I sighed.  In the mean time it would be bit by bit, it would will trip by trip, in suitcases and UPS boxes carefully packed, in trips to the Flea, and maybe one day even new things, big things like shelves for books and beds with posts.   Each little sliver coming together, building my life here piece by piece until it is finally something complete.  We both sighed, remembering the dishes in the sink.  She did hers and I walked over to do mine, the large glass bowl in the sink catching my eye first.  The punchbowl.  My punchbowl.  A new acquisition for this party, round with clean lines, modern yet classic.  Something to bring people together, something beautiful in which to mix a whole recipe of different things together.  One of the few things of any use to anyone other than myself in this apartment that is mine.  Rinsing it, I place it gently in the drying rack, and turning off the lights in the kitchen, I head toward my room to begin the bedtime routine.



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