My sweetheart and I are on extreme ends of the country right now, for very practical and very temporary reasons. I’m trying to keep the house clean, the animals content without their adored other person, and feed myself.
Last year I had treatments that released me from my allergy to corn products. I can go wild foraging in previously verboten aisles of the food co-op. If I so choose, I can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at McDonalds. I could eat nothing but popcorn and ice cream made of corn syrup. But without my sweetheart, I have no appetite.
She is an outstanding cook. It’s certainly not the only reason I am heartsick without her, but when she takes out her beloved mom’s recipe book and whips up Pork Chops Liegoise with gruyere cheese and Dijon mustard, or her amazing Bread Pudding recipe, redolent of cinnamon and vanilla, which appears in The Butch Cook Book, I am so happy I get all teary-eyed.
On my own it’s Ramen Noodles with frozen turnip greens and diced turnips (two nights ago) or matzos with butter (last night). For the first week and a half she was gone I ate a bean soup I made with the recipe on the Bob’s Red Mill dried bean package. One night I took two pieces of two-week old rosemary sourdough we brought home from a restaurant, added cheddar cheese, stuck it in the microwave and immediately forgot it. Later, I gnawed what I could of my rock hard dinner. The next day I made an appointment with the dentist to replace the filling I broke on that bread. It was one expensive doggy bag, but the actual doggy delighted in it. I may apply for a pet food patent: “Doggy Bag Cheese Bread.”
My thrill, on this lone Valentine’s Day, consisted of an iced tea and a soft serve cone at McDonalds. I stopped there on my way home from the dentist’s office after dental emergency number two. I’d eaten muesli at breakfast—something healthy—and a crown came off.
On the other coast, my sweetheart eats prepackaged oatmeal for supper. I found a box of 50 at the restaurant supply store and send a few each week in a care package. Fifty? she’s going to say when she finds out. They come in flavors: maple and brown sugar, apple and cinnamon, cinnamon and spices and just plain oatmeal. Hmm, sounds good. Maybe I’ll have one for dinner tonight.
So food is not filling the void of Without Her, but I’m not going to starve to death. We talk on the phone at least once a day and the emails fly back and forth. Between times, when I’m not working at my job, or writing, or giving meds to the pets or seeing the dentist (three times now and another appointment coming up), she left me something to keep me company: a Kindle.
I should be one of those folks who say, it’s not the same as a book and, passionately, I love the feel of a book in my hands. Although I’m not likely to stop reading and collecting real paper books, these e-readers and tablets are the future. I don’t want to be run over in the digital stampede. There will be books and there will be electronic devices and possibly other mediums for stories. There were, after all, once no books at all, only oral tales.
My sweetheart could not have timed this gift better. After work, I settle at the kitchen table with some food-like concoction or other, and I drown out the pangs of missing her with stories from my Kindle. I avoid breaking the household bank by borrowing e-books from the library. (Confession: I did give her a great big cream-colored faux-fur throw to keep her company.)
Holding a book is comforting and satisfying until the day when you’re reading and your hands get shooting pains and your finger joints ache. For a person with arthritis, a lesbian who wants to keep her hands nimble and functional, this basic Kindle is a little miracle. Hardcover books get heavier as I grow older. Holding a paperback open with one hand makes me wonder if the arthritis comes from doing just that since childhood. Holding a lightweight e-reader is sheer pleasure.
And so, while she bravely eats her oatmeal across the continent, I fill my sweetheart-less days with work, find excitement in a Subway sandwich on Saturday nights Without Her, and plunge into the worlds where my little toy reader, light as popcorn, takes me.