While cleaning my cubicle and ridding it of trash this afternoon, I saw this note from former students. It was funny finding this after having read some stinging evaluation of my Lit students last sem.
I woke up very early, at 8. It was very cold. The first thing I did was to wash my face and brush my teeth. I gathered my whites and washed them at the basement. Then I went to the kitchen. There, my books and computer were waiting for me.
It was drizzling outside. A gloomy day. Rainy days vex my spirit.
I boiled some coffee. It would have been in a samovar. If I were in Russia. But I’m in America. So it’s a whistling kettle. Between a samovar and a whistling kettle. There is no competition. A samovar is poetry incarnate. A Whistling kettle is prose.
And how I detest conditionals.
I cooked a cup and a half of rice. I washed it first. Thrice of course. It should be that way. My mother said. The bag of rice was imported from Vietnam. It’s the best variety. A little sticky. Not too wet. Moderately soft. Bright white. My appetite wasn’t with me, though. I approached the table. Opened a book and read. I realized. It was already 10. I stared at the view outside. The falling rain water mesmerized me. I closed my eyes and said a short prayer.
The prosaic whistling kettle announced the conclusion of its reason for being. I poured its briskly boiling content into my cup. Where’s the coffee maker? I seemed to have heard. In case you asked. It’s cracked.
I prefer my coffee black. It’s less fattening this way. I don’t like my coffee bitter, however. So today, it’s black. With a dash of Splenda. I’m already fed up with all the bitterness. Including the bitterness in my coffee. A little sweetness won’t hurt. I guess.
It rained the whole day. I stayed in. I was alone. Everyone left.
To you whom I can only address in the second person:
You have repeatedly told me that turning 27 bothers you the least, that it runs short of being extraordinary, that 27 is nothing but an unimposing figure, a fact of non-import that does not require you to stop for a moment and bring you to a stupor of introspection. Although I did not completely believe you, was a bit unconvinced, I sensed you were sincere, and so I just stared at your face nodding, gave you a slight kiss, and said ‘good night, babe’. Now that that day is close, tomorrow to be exact, I’d like to dedicate this post in my hardly-updated blog to you who have been the cause of my happiness these past days, weeks, and months.
I would never attempt to assume that I know you more than anyone, what is a six-and-a-half-month of being together, anyway? But allow me, in my most humble of ways, write a little about someone who is quite unknown to me, but whom I am desperately trying to know and make sense of: you.
We talked about this the other night, how writing for you is thinking first then scribbling your ideas down on a piece of paper or typing them on your computer, while for the less methodical me, allowing the act of writing on a piece of paper or my computer shape my actual thoughts. You love planning, I thrive in spontaneity. Your place is as organized as mine is chaotic. But other than these, we seem to agree on almost anything but one more thing: the right amount of sugar in our coffee. (You have finally mastered my timpla, and this I think is very sweet.)
I was joking with you the last time how our age difference would have now widened to two years and how this will lead into something as scary as what the restless youth of the 90s referred to as generation gap. But I was kidding of course. I am so lucky to find in you somebody who can comprehend even the subtlest of my nuances, who knows exactly how to make me laugh, who knows how to appreciate what I do without having to say it, who’s of my age.
What does being 27 entail?
To you, nothing it seems. I saw in you how you have maintained that crucial balance of everything by not letting your work and all the stresses that go with it pin you down, make you bitter, or curse the world. That maturity does not mean murdering that little kid in you.
You’re that little oasis of happiness I look forward to being in at the end of every long working day. I look up to you, and I’d like you to know that I want to look at life the same way you do now when I reach this age.
Thank you for so many things, babe. Happy birthday.
There is something about cooking for you that brings me to levels of spirituality beyond my human faculty’s capacity to comprehend. And only through writing about this beautiful experience am I able to at least grasp it in my hands, delicately clasp it, only to escape the moment I thought, at last, I have fully understood it.
We’ve traveled the world through our Friday night’s experiments, and along the way we’ve discovered things about each other that are as amusing as the different fusions of flavors we concoct, as interesting as the texture we produce, and as colorful as the polychromatic ingredients we use in our every recipe.
Such as last Friday night’s Indian Curry:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
- 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
- salt to taste
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until lightly browned. Stir in garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, paprika, bay leaf, ginger, sugar and salt. Continue stirring for 2 minutes. Add chicken pieces, tomato paste, yogurt, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Remove bay leaf, and stir in lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Simmer 5 more minutes.
While sauteing garlic, onions and grated ginger for the Curry, I would randomly glanced at the mirror and see you looking at the dancing minced bulbs in hot oil as I flipped them briskly, doing my best to keep the garlic from turning brown and bitter. Because of that look of glowing curiosity from your eyes, I had to make sure I handled the spatula like an expert chef, with calculated spontaneity, lest you’d think your boyfriend is a novice in the realm of the kitchen.
And it was obvious I am. Only that I am learning each time, committing fewer mistakes, relying more on my instinct, and getting helpful cues from your every reaction.
Then I added the other-worldly smelling curry powder, aromatic cinnamon, and paprika (the stress, I stood corrected by you, should be in the second syllable). You ran to open the door and windows. The smell of the spices drenched in olive oil was arresting; the paste was scary. The entire room “smelled like KL,” I said. “Not India?” You asked. “No, I’ve never been there, I wouldn’t know,” I answered.
And I wanted to go visit it someday, to get lost in Calcutta, Delhi, and Agra, with you.
I dunked in a bowlful of haphazardly cut up chicken breasts, poured in the coconut milk you extracted, and added in plain yogurt. The salt was to your taste.
But you complained it was a bit too salty. As I added a pinch while you excused yourself to smoke in the bathroom.
The brown rice wasn’t too bad, but needed a little water to allow it to swell a bit.
We served our Curries (chicken and potato) with chilled sweet white wine, which was perfect. But I insisted on drinking a bottle San Miguel’s Cerveza Negra made from roasted malt which was a more perfect partner to our Indian Chicken Curry.
And the simple meal and the evening was over.
But the memories of the experience shall remain here. For good.
Everything is best enjoyed in 2s:
The hot sun at 10 o’clock.
View of the sea from an open window, or while sitting on plastic chairs facing the vast blue ocean.
Sipping cheap and lukewarm black coffee in the afternoon.
Lovers’ shirts or couple’s shirts, they call them.
Or simply letting the world endlessly turn while you’re both stuck nowhere, but you know this ‘nowhere’ is beside each other.