(This is an excerpt from my newest book: One Hundred Open Houses. I don't know why this book doesn't sell better. Maybe it's the cover or the blurb. When someone finally reads it, they go crazy with praise. I read parts of it over and over. When I sell a copy, I almost cry with happiness.)
After meandering through three expensive apartments at 17 West 16th street (real homes with foyers and dining rooms and something called a logia – a wide useless hall to me), I decided to go home. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was doubtful I would find the holy grail, aka the perfect apartment, today Even though my head was beginning to hurt, I was also happy that I could not eat for another two and a half hours on the drive home which meant that I had a calorie deficit for the day. If life was reasonable, I might drop a few ounces. There was a heart healthy cooked meal waiting in my refrigerator and it beckoned me home like a candle in the window.
The day before, I had made a meatloaf out of ground turkey combined with half a jar of Classico basil and garlic sauce, an egg and some Arnold’s croutons. Whatever genius person at Shady Brook Farms came in one Monday morning in 2001 and said: “Look at all these turkeys left over from Thanksgiving, why don’t we grind them up and sell them as ‘ground turkey’,” my hat’s off to him/her. Ground turkey never tastes gamy, it’s vacuum packed, it keeps for a day or two without turning brown and it makes the best meatballs and meatloaf.
I debated whether to warm up a slice of the loaf in some butter or just eat it cold slathered with ketchup. In some manic reversal of my usual post divorce rule –no serious cooking - I had also made barley (a grain unknown to me except through canned soup) substituting lemon juice for half of the water required. The result was unremitting good tasting stuff. I was ready to sit down with my warm meatloaf slice, brown and crusty from the butter dip it had just received in the frying pan, the lemon infused barley, a couple of slices of fresh tomato and a glass of Walnut Creek Chilean merlot when the phone rang.
It was my ex sounding really upset. He had received an e-mail from one of our sons telling him that a trip to Peru had resulted in a spiritual awakening and he was going to remain there for the rest of his life living among the animals. The e-mail was accompanied by a photo of our boy, meditating between two llamas. The llamas had their legs tucked under them and appeared to be meditating, too. When I checked my e-mail and saw the picture, I realized for the first time that I didn’t know this boy at all. In a million years I would not have guessed that he had a spiritual side and that it would kick in in Peru. Why was he even in Peru? And were llamas so passive they would sit like that for a portrait?
“Pisssaro Pissed on Peru.” That’s how I had helped the kids memorize the explorers and that’s what Benjamin said to me when I called to ask him, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Mom, I can’t believe you and Dad thought I was serious,” he said. “It was a joke.”
I love this boy. I love all the children at different times but not all at the same time.
I don’t know why. I know how it’s supposed to work but I also know how it really is.
When I got into the tangled bed I had left unmade that morning I couldn’t find the top sheet but I let it go. I decided to mentally rehearse inhabiting my new life. How would I wake up? What would the bed be like? How would the light play in the room? What furniture would surround me? What would the temperature be in the room? What would be my state of mind? What would I do first thing on awakening? I knew I had to live in my new environment mentally in order to let go of my present house. At first, it was hard to imagine a different bed and it was next to impossible to really feel the newness of waking up in a totally unknown room. Then I got the hang of it and I felt a faint breeze from a nearby window and wafting in was the scent of early morning freshness with just a hint of fermenting garbage. When I looked down, I saw a shaft of light streaking across narrow floorboards the color of weak oolong tea. As I drifted off to sleep, I decided brown was my favorite color.
The phone rang twice but I didn’t answer. Once I knew Benjamin was safe I didn’t want to talk anymore.