How are you? I hear that you’re well. Last night, I saw your girlfriend at Siobhan’s birthday dinner. I’ve known the lovely Kitty for years and positively adore her. I wish the two of you nothing but happiness, and mean that with my whole black heart.
This winter, I’ve taken up baking bread. When one is up to her elbows in whole wheat flour, a person gets to thinking, which as you may recall was always my strongest suit – unless the topic was you. On 28 September, it was 10 years ago that our huge art project and our daily involvement in each other’s lives ended. Ten years. We used to have such exciting conversations.
Tata: I wish I were in love with the grownup you’ll be in ten years.
Morgan: Fuck you! We don’t love each other now.
Yes, our stormy one-year relationship was a tsunami descending on a tiny matchstick fishing village. I don’t miss living with a man who slept with my friends and neighbors, and seldom miss being a raging, single-minded harpy with an ambition problem. I would have done anything to keep you, which led to hilarious antics, like fights in the middle of the night on busy streets. I’m sure we both remember fondly the day we moved house and on the way you decided not to move in, or how you left me three times. And who can forget the kneeslapper that was your moving in and refusing to sleep with me? Oh, how we laughed when I slept with my exes in self-defense!
A person can discover a great deal about herself in the process of learning to bake bread. Before a few weeks ago, I did not have the patience to try it. Baking – especially for the beginner – requires a certain attention, a presence with the tasks at hand I could not have imagined possessing when we were together. I was consumed with making good art, making a name for myself, and making you love me enough to stay. One of the most instructive lessons of breadmaking is that skipping steps in the process leads to unpleasant results. The artwork we made was fantastic and I certainly made a name for myself, but there was no holding your attention, so ultimately, when I think of you, I feel like the lover I worshipped walked straight up to me and shot me in the chest. I couldn’t write anymore. I lost my home, my work, my memory, my health, my Self. From a distance, I’m sure this looked like just another BANG! and out popped a flag that said BANG! and so it’s funny when the clown falls over. But all I felt and feel when I think of you is a pointless, profound sense of my own failure, and what could be more uproarious than that?
Dad – you remember Dad – found me a recipe in the NYTimes for no-knead bread. In an amusing turn of events, after I couldn’t write anymore my hands quit working. I know! That’s an absolute riot! Anyway, if you’ll pardon the pun, kneading is fundamental but I can’t do it yet, so this recipe is a good place for me to start. A batch of this dough is proofing in my kitchen as I write. In half an hour, I’ll turn on the oven. Half an hour after that, I’ll turn out the dough into my Le Creuset dutch oven and bake it. Last week’s dough contained a tablespoon of garlic powder and a teaspoon of dry mustard. I felt it was too specific and lacked a metaphoric range. Today’s contains parsley and some basil. I have a lot of hope for today’s effort. A few weeks ago, Siobhan asked if you would mind not coming to the birthday dinner, and you said you didn’t. That was damned decent of you. Much of that preparation happened without me.
Tata: If you want Morgan and Kitty at your party, I don’t have to go. It’s okay.
Siobhan: Oh, no. I’m wearing a silver dress and a faux fur shrug. You will be there.
Frankly, I’m tired now, bored with these struggles, and I don’t need to participate in them anymore. Most of my time is spent alone, and I prefer it that way. For years, I was out every night, on stage anywhere with a liquor license and dating everyone who could quote Trout Fishing In America. I don’t have a stake in that life anymore, and in this life, I have no competitors, which brings me back to last night. The dinner was going well. Siobhan was surrounded by admirers, the food was tasty; everyone brought presents made of booze and trimmed with marabou, and Mila was sitting next to the unsuspecting man she’ll sleep with for a weekend and he’ll be crushed for the next three years, so all was right with the world. Then Spooky walked up the Old Bay’s spiral staircase and across the dining room. After that terrible business you two got into years ago where everyone including me was wrong and no one was right, I felt a murderous rage every time I saw her, but that’s cooled to contempt lately.
I looked at Siobhan.
Siobhan looked at me.
We looked at each other. A long moment passed.
Siobhan said, “Sorry. I forgot.” This dinner was not about me, and everyone was all dressed up, so I said nothing. Spooky stayed on the far side of the room and mostly out of my line of sight. I didn’t have to look at this parasite so most of the evening was fine. I took the first ride across the bridge home because I’d walked to the Old Bay from where I live on the other side of the river. This morning, I called Siobhan to find out if she’d deliberately created a situation where Spooky and I would be in the same room together and Siobhan said she had not, but she was proud of the way I seemed to be moving on. I informed her that she was, hilariously, mistaken. Looking at Spooky is looking at you, only with that added piquancy of lying, stealing and friendly, oblivious betrayal.
The oven is heating, and I’ve come to the part of the recipe where I must pay close attention to what I’m doing. This is good news because Siobhan won’t have another conversation with you like the one where she asked you to do this nice thing for me and stay away. See, even when you try to treat me decently it gets fucked up somewhere along the line. I’ve told Siobhan it’s over, and as funny as it’s been to occasionally surprise the audience with yet another clowny public gunfight, I’m peeling off my clown nose and hitting the showers. The traveling circus is all yours, Morgan.
Go in peace, my old friend, but please keep going.