I made French fries for dinner last night. I haven’t done that before here, and it’s been a long time since I’ve done it at all. So, of course, the process of doing it was different than usual. No oven to make “healthier” fries in. Just the curry cooker and a big puddle of hot oil. Then, I decided to cut the fries into rounds instead of fingers. I don’t know why. It just appealed to me.
There was something evocative about the whole thing, and it seemed like there ought to be peas with it. I kept imagining peas. I don’t know why I kept thinking about peas either.
I’m aware these days that there are trainloads of memories of perfectly ordinary things waiting to pull into the station, and that many day-to-day things have the power to trigger them. I don’t really know what the triggers are going to be. They might be the same things I’ve been doing every day, but until now have managed to shut the memories out. Or they might be triggered by something new I hadn’t realize was connected.
There are going to be other kitchen memories. There are going to be other cooking memories aside from the ones I’ve had so far. There is more for me to remember than blini and making out. We ate other foods aside from blini, and there was a year and half of being romantically involved and five or six years of having a different kind of relationship.
So I’m not very surprised that I keep thinking of peas and something dark on a plate that could be a slab of sauce-covered meat, or could be something else.
But I am surprised that I react to it in the way that I do: I’m sick and tired and when I first start cooking, it’s in an entirely mechanical way. Just get through this. Just cook, eat, go to bed fast. And then I start to enjoy it. I start feeling just the tiniest bit happy watching the potatoes froth in the oil as they cook.
I don’t want to be happy. I don’t want to make a happy memory that Nata is not a part of. I don’t want to enjoy being in the kitchen when Nata is not there. It’s not that I want to be miserable either. It’s just I want there not to be kitchens anymore or happiness or basically life.
There are two pieces to this: one of them is missing her as a person. I miss her. I want her to still be a part of the present, even though it’s not quite possible for her to do that.
But I also don’t want to start being this person who forges a path alone. The other is missing myself as a member of a unit. The other part of it is realizing that, just as I looked at Nata as my family, she looked at me that way too.
It’s hard to describe that, because I think it’s hard to avoid sounding like I am saying something I’m not. It’s that I don’t want to give up a sense of an “us” that other people are mostly unaware of. I feel naked and alone in a way that orphans feel, and other people rarely do—you do for a bit when your parent die. I know that happens. Except people hook into the other relationships they have and into the memories of the past, and feel a part of an “us” again. The naked sense doesn’t remain. I think that’s what I’m going through: figuring out what the “us” means now that a part of it is dead.
So Ruthie tells me I’m still part of a family. I am the only one left of it—that’s all. The hard part for me is that there are so many things I don’t remember of that “us.” You can carry on your family traditions and in that way feel you are still a part of that family, even if your parents are dead and you no longer do those things with them anymore, but I can’t remember enough to have traditions.
I could, but it would make my head explode. I can only take in and organize so many memories a day. I don’t even have all the Easter memories yet, let alone how we used to make pancakes.
To some extent, I have to tolerate this in-between state, where I want an identity, but I don’t remember enough to have one that’s well-defined.