“Four years ago, I’d started receiving group emails from the Tran Family, Somewhere USA, detailing Thanksgiving preparations. Surely these emails were intended for some other James West, I thought, and I deleted or ignored them. But they kept coming. By Thanksgiving 2010, curiosity got the better of me.”—
“I got tired, I told him. Not worn out, but worn through. Like one of those wives who wakes up one morning and says I can’t bake any more bread.
You never bake bread, he wrote, and we were still joking.
Then it’s like I woke up and baked bread, I said, and we were joking even then. I wondered will there come a time when we won’t be joking? And what would it look like? And how would that feel?
When I was a girl, my life was music that was always getting louder. Everything moved me. A dog following a stranger. That made me feel so much. A calender that showed the wrong month. I could have cried over it. I did. Where the smoke from the chimney ended. How an overturned bottle rested at the edge of a table.
I spent my life learning to feel less.
Every day I felt less.
Is that growing old? Or is it something worse?
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”—
The shoddy brown building that the bakery is in is deceitful. It suggests a bland confectionary, a slipping business venture that will soon be vacated. It is not the taupe neutral brown of dental offices or law firms that safely convey whispers of economic stability, where an influx of money is taken for granted, and the art is bought in bulk from mail order catalogs. The chipping dark mocha of the bakery and the handwritten “Come in we’re open,” sign taped in the window brings a skeptical glance from first time patrons. That is if they even chance to get out of their vehicles. We venture in to the bakery, and it’s as if we’ve annoyed him. An olive-skinned Grecian with blue shadows under his eyes emerges from the back appearing as if he’s been disturbed from a nap. Inside the décor isn’t much better. There are maps of his homeland unframed, tacked to the walls. There are faded blue and white flags that droop over the display cases. “What can I help you with,” he says in a tone suggesting anything but a helpful attitude. If it weren’t for the honeyed phyllo baklava, the white powered sugar dusted cookies, and the bars of imported chocolates stacked in boxes, I’d have turned on heel and left. Instead I level him with a gaze and raise an eyebrow. I point here, there, and quickly snip out my orders with displeasure. He has an arrogant aquiline nose that breaks my heart, and his heavily lidded eyes meet mine unflinchingly. We glower and the tension is palpable, and then he procures a sample for me, passed over the counter in a napkin. He watches with a smirk, and when I take my first bite of a slice of Amygdalopita, I know he’s won. I “mmmm” loudly, a white flag of sorts, and he dusts his floured hands on his apron modestly. He grins finally, “You like it?” I blush rosy with astonishment, and in that first bite, a friendship. He chats, and his accent fills the room, rolling and trilling. It’s so unfamiliar and interesting, a mystery to my ear. Here she and I stand like messy children in front of him, and it’s better than any drug: licking our fingers, tonguing our palms, sighing soft contented moans. Our little “Church of Food,” with sticky honey haired choirs and cinnamon sprinkles on our lips. “Amazing,” I say in lieu of a goodbye. He nods victorious, still eyeing my pink cheeks as I slip out the door, my endless chatter silenced for once.
“So yes I know how angry, or naive, or self-destructive, or messed up, or even deluded I sound weaving my way through these life stories at times. But beautiful things. Graceful things. Hopeful things can sometimes appear in dark places. Besides, I’m trying to tell you the truth of a woman like me.”—
Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water (via muscovite