The Weeklies: July 21 - 27
When I think about last week, I remember last Wednesday night. Specifically the moment I opened a hot oven and cringed. I'd cooked dinner for my Southern cousins: a delicately seasoned chicken with carrots and potatoes. It wasn't BBQ, it wasn't golden fried, there wasn't pork involved. Most Southerners I know hate baked chicken so much they consider it "diet" food. It was going to be a disaster.
You see, I left Alabama before I learned how to "throw down." I can't fry shrimp. I never soaked beans for hours or smelled chitlins cooking. There was nary a casserole in my repertoire. I'd tricked a few people with an expired can of Tony Chachere's seasoning, but I don't have the gift.
I had a feeling that the meal would disappoint everyone. This feeling was even more pronounced when I served a paltry bowl of vanilla ice cream for dessert. But, all was not lost: we laughed, we caught up.
We watched them hop into their car and return to their Airbnb, and I felt a hole in my stomach. My challenge this summer has been to present the truest version of myself. It's hardest when I see people I've known the longest, like my family and friends from Alabama. After hours hiding I feel weak and dirty afterwards. There is some element of every interaction lately -- when the phone call is over or I'm waving goodbye on a sidewalk -- that the mask comes off.
Friday after a visit to the therapist I meet with a friend for a Financial District stroll. We began at Stone street, migrating to the grassy area near South Street Seaport. At City Hall park we paused to rest our legs.
"The fireflies are out," I remarked. My friend had never seen fireflies and was completely surprised to see them for the first time in New York. I, too, saw my first fireflies in the city. It was 2004. I was on a twilight walk with my aunt on 131st Street. They were in the grassy areas between the buildings.
"Lightning bugs!" my aunt said. I thought it was magical.
Saturday afternoon we said goodbye to my cousins at their midtown hotel, then went uptown to the Boat Basin Cafe to attend an event. I met many of Alistair's colleagues, had a plate of raclette and a slice of Black Forest Cake big enough to make the biddy's in "Pollyanna" proud. Later that evening we were out again for Korean BBQ with old friends. We went to a baseball-themed dive bar right next to the Empire State Building with tchotchke's all over the walls and an old phone booth with an accordion door. We did not go home till after eleven o’clock.