I go back to a perfect day amidst the craziness. I was alone. I was fine for the moment but there was nothing on my walls and nothing in my drawers. I was alone for the first time in my life. There was no one to report to and no one to speak with. My answering machine was empty. I could tell by the red double-zeroes which reminded me that no one called and no one cared.
I suppose this is what it means to be on your own. The rest of the world was tending to their business and me, I was moving in a different direction. I was back in my old town in Long Island. I returned like a son who grew and returned home to their Mother—hoping for some warmth or if nothing else, at least a good bowl of soup or something comforting. But in my case, Mom was gone. My Mother had passed. My Father had passed. My family was scattered in different locations. Some of my family were caught in the snags of family brawls and arguments and me, I was far from neutral at the time.
My friends were living in a different sector of life. They were married with kids. They had different priorities. Plus, they had wives who were somewhat against them keeping me company, which was perhaps in fear of their own divorce; as if divorce was contagious, like a flu. But either way, I was not contagious. I was alone and I found myself somewhat friendless.
I was living in a small upstairs apartment in a private house. The homeowners were kind to me. The woman of the house would often leave home-cooked meals for me on the steps. She knew I was recently single and entering the realm of divorce. She knew that I was a divorced dad and struggling with the new guidelines and boundaries that come with visitation. Her husband, or the man of the house; he was kind to me as well. He tried to promote a happy vibe, which was helpful to me on some of the lonelier days. He would ask me about my so-called dates and the attempts of meeting a new girl, which was not too successful by any means.
In fairness, I took on the emotion of my surroundings. I was as empty as my apartment. I was alone and getting lonelier. I was afraid that this would be me for the rest of my life because, after all, “Who would want someone like me?” Who wants a man with baggage? Who wants someone who barely knows how to take care of themselves, let alone take care of anybody else.
I can’t say that I was ever much of a cook. I can say that I knew how to make a few dishes. I knew how to cook a steak or burgers or the simple things. And this was great, but what I needed most was comfort food. Another thing that I needed most were simple things, like food to cook or a table to eat on. At best, I had an empty fridge. I had a television tray and a couch and some fast food wrappers and some empty pizza boxes in my garbage. I didn’t have cable, which meant that I was reduced to watching whatever movies I had on VHS, which was an outdated technology— but still, my television was outdated. I was outdated. All I had to watch were two old VHS tapes. One of which was an adult film from the mid to late 80’s, so there was only so much that I could watch this one. The other VHS tape was the movie Pulp Fiction. I had a small radio to play music. I had a small kitchen and a little fridge. I had a stove. I had a place of my own and with nothing else and no other decorations; I made the decision to break away from the emptiness. I went out to pick up a table. And better, I chose to fill my stomach to the best of my ability.
There are few times in my life when I can say that I would like to relive the moment exactly as it was and without any changes. I went to the store to buy some chicken cutlets and some breadcrumbs. I picked up some artichokes and a few other little appetizers to taste before my meal. Picked up some potatoes to mash and added the accompaniments to my menu—and here’s the best part; I didn’t have to consider anyone else when making my selections. I didn’t have to think about what anyone else would want. No, this was all on me. This was about to be a meal that was made for me, and by me, and in the end, I had a day that I will never forget.
Although I never made chicken cutlets before, I managed to pull off a trick and see this through. I made mashed potatoes the way my Mother would make. I had a salad. I had music playing in the background. I had the sound of cooking going on and the smell of food in the air. if asked, I could tell you this was better than Christmas. This was better than Thanksgiving. There was no one there to change the station on the radio. There was no one around to tell me that my singing wasn’t good. There was no one to complain about the fact that Pulp Fiction was playing on the television again—and the best part was this: For the first time in my adult life, I bought a dining room table.
It wasn’t big by any means, but still—this was mine and so was the meal. The apartment was mine. I could walk around with or without clothes. I could leave dishes in my sink. I could sleep on the couch or in the bed or leave the air on to keep the place cool. There was nothing that could possibly steal this away from me. It was perfect.
I remember placing the cutlets in the pan. I remember the flavor when I ate them. I remember how the gravy covered the chicken and the mashed potatoes; and to be clear, I ate and I ate and I ate some more. I ate until my heart was content. I put the dishes in the sink. I flopped on the couch, happy and content, and yet again, I watched the movie Pulp Fiction without objection.
I recall thinking about the changes that come with life. There are times when people split or move on. There are times when the arguments create too much of a barrier to break through. There are times when the only option is clear; and in my case, I might have been alone but at least I wasn’t fighting anymore. I might have been struggling, but for the first time in my life, I thought to myself, “I think we’re gonna be okay.”
Food is love. I can say this for certain. And I can say to feed one’s self in a positive way is perhaps the most nurturing way to feel better.
It’d be nice to have Mom make this dish. She always did this best but Mom is gone now. And as I saw it, I had to fend for myself—so I did.
Off the record, I have a question for you . . .
If you could have any dish or any comfort meal of your choice, what would it be?
If you could have your own little place and there was no one else around, what would you sing or what music would you play if this were you?
Think about this for a second.
Imagine this idea in your head and become the author of this story. Be the narrator and what would this sound like.
To me, this is my go-to memory.
To me, this means that even if no one else is around; at least I have me.
At least I have some music and food . . .
And to me, this is better than any drug in the world!