“I’d been crushed, skinned, diced, seared, and salted. The Universe pointed and laughed; I laughed too.”
The Garlic sizzled and hissed sweet protest from my saucepan. I’d separated this clove from his bulb of brothers, crushed him under the flat of my knife, torn off his skin, diced him into tiny pieces julienne style, and tossed his pulpy remains into searing hot butter. To add savory insult to injury, I cracked fresh pepper over him, and threw kosher salt into his open wounds. He frothed in fragrant dissent.
“Hush,” I chastised. ”I am preparing you to be part of something delicious.”
There are few things that make a house smell more like home than fresh garlic sauteing in salted creamery butter. Scented candles and incense reeked to me of artifice and affectation, but a man fixing a home cooked meal from scratch is pure aphrodisia. I had always found solace in the scents and sounds of my kitchen. As I waited for my date to arrive, I considered carefully the Counsel of Garlic.
The Universe has a twisted sense of humor. Ask for courage and it will manifest your greatest terrors. Ask for wisdom and it will present you with perplexing puzzles. Ask for strength and you’ll be forced to bear unreasonably heavy loads. Ask for patience and you will end up on the Grand Central Parkway behind some Mr. Magoo motherfucker, driving thirty-five miles an hour in the fast lane, while you curse through clenched teeth and shake your fists in apoplectic fits.
Dare ask what else in your life could go wrong and it will show you just how much you have to be grateful for. Never give the Universe a reason to show you how much worse your life could be.
Ask for love and The Universe will laugh, and whisper “Are you ready?” knowing full well that you are not. And then it will prime you. It will scrape away your preconceptions, strip you down to your bare essence, and then it will point, and snicker at your naked desires. The Universe is not a magic lamp for you to rub and command. It is not served by creating ungrateful children who are handed their every wish and whim. The Universe wants you to earn its gifts; to learn, to grow, to evolve. Whatever blessing you ask, it will present you with the appropriate tools needed to develop in you the qualities you require to obtain that which you seek. The Universe will send you teachers.
The Garlic offered aromatic promises as it softened into translucent tastiness. I considered what grandiose things I had asked of the Universe, and how perfectly perverse its responses were.
Picture in your mind’s eye, a clear glass filled to the brim with spring water, pure and transparent. Sitting beside it, imagine an old fashioned bottle of india ink, equal in its opaqueness. Now remove the eyedropper from the bottle, and gently squeeze a single drop of ink into the glass of water, and watch it diffuse into gossamer strands as it dissolves.
That drop of ink was me, during my marriage.
Sometimes, when you love too deep, your personality gets lost, like tears in rain. Anna, my ex-wife, loved me best when I was out of work, out of shape, and out of luck. In vain attempts to appease her sense of lack, I’d abandoned the things that I thought defined me: I stopped drawing, I stopped writing, I stopped exercising. I became less than a shadow of myself, and it didn’t make either of us happy.
Resuming activities I enjoyed that were healthy for me only fueled her insecurities. When it ended, I swore: never again would I self-dilute. Never again would I make myself less in order to make someone else feel like more. If I had to be any less of who I was–less intelligent, less passionate, less creative–I just was not the right person. If you couldn’t handle me, straight up no chaser, you couldn’t have me, period.
I next recalled the dark, lusty prayers I sent out into the ether, post-divorce. I considered the series of scandalous affairs that ensued; delicious apples I’d shaken loose, only to be discarded after one or two tasty bites.
While I couldn’t deny that my life was much simpler when sex was just about fucking, it was equally less meaningful. One year’s worth of fucking was worth less to me than a single night of making love. This didn’t mean I was suddenly endorsing celibacy because I wasn’t in a relationship. I needed emotional content, but I wasn’t about to give up sex because I wasn’t in love any more than I was going to give up pizza because it wasn’t Grimaldis. I just wasn’t going to be indiscriminate. My feet didn’t have the right to tell me where to walk, my hands weren’t allowed to determine what turns of phrase I put to paper, and my dick didn’t get to decide what women graced my sheets.
And then I thought of Betty. Betty had been so emotionally cauterized, she was happy to burn if it meant she felt something, anything. There was a Nietzschean quality about the way she stared into the abyss, but just because you could walk up to the brink of madness and wave didn’t make it a good idea. Love didn’t have to be manic, adventure was still fun even if it wasn’t life-threatening, and ghosts might stop haunting you if you had the courage to address them.
I cursed the Universe, as the Garlic in my saucepan had cursed me. I’d been crushed, skinned, diced, seared and salted. The Universe pointed and laughed; I laughed too. ”Do you think your experience is unique?” it queried. ”Love owes you nothing, and The Universe owes you no favors.”
I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted, and that was fine. Predetermining what you want seemed a surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment. What I didn’t want, couldn’t tolerate and was dangerously unhealthy for me was being made painfully clear, and I wanted to move forward. When you find yourself stuck in groundhog’s day, you’d best figure out the lesson, or you’re doomed to repeat it for eternity.
I thanked the Universe for loving me enough to send teachers. I wondered: what lessons was I imparting? What inadvertent part did I play in the evolution of the women who had been sent to instruct me? ”Egotist!” the Universe chimed. ”Pay attention to your own saucepan. How I season others is not your concern.”
The doorbell rang. My date was wearing her best pair of CFMBs, and carrying a bottle of Pinot Grigio. I kissed her in the doorway, and silently asked the Universe if I was ready to be part of something delicious.