Thursday, September 21, 2006

she's the one who would have taken me to my first all-ages show

She protected me like I always imagined an elder sister would. The night before the big day, M and I walked out of the subway station into darkness. It had been light when we had boarded in Manhattan. We stopped at a bodega. A bodega in my neighborhood sells fruits and vegetables that may or may not have fallen off the back of a truck, cheap cookies from South America, eggs and milk, very little else. In Ft. Greene, a bodega is all organic, sells Kashi and Odwalla, and costs more than a trip to Trader Joe’s.

With a bagful of groceries, M and I climbed the stairs to her kitchen. I could feel myself falling into a familiar habit. We were chatting one moment, and the next, I could feel myself growing silent, turning inward. Nerves were starting to settle in. M’s approach had been to distract me all weekend with talk of clowns and New York and San Francisco. But now, it was getting late.

M sensed this immediately, and in the kitchen, the pace of her chopping and fussing increased. She let me pore over papers for an hour while the smells of my childhood started to permeate the whole floor. Of course, M could not abide by too much familiarity. So, the unusual, clashing scent of dill wafted through the rest of the dal.

By the time M had set two bowls of dal with a plate of rice on the table, I had the time I needed to be quiet and still. She instinctively understood I needed to be self-contained. The dal was strange: familiar and completely unlike anything I had ever tasted before. Technically, I’m not even sure it could be called dal- the dill, green onions, potatoes, and bell peppers were incongrous, not the usual fare.

I am not used to people taking care of me. As a child, I wasn’t easy to take care of- my willful independence clashed with any of the usual attempts to nurture. Only certain people could manage: those who barreled through my guard with their unabashed affection, or those who recognized the tightrope and were inexplicably willing to walk it. But, as an adult, I have come not to expect either, because at a certain point you just keep yourself together.

And you can think me cynical for coming to such a conclusion. You can consider me cynical, and I will not disagree with you. But I will tell you this. To have your cynicism disproven and thrown in your face is one of the most joyous ways of getting a comeuppance.

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