We live between grocery lists. Mahi-mahi and chicken canzanese. Scratch biscuits for breakfast, then pork loin with fig jam. (“Fig Jam 2010!” I joke in the farmers’ market aisle.) Saturday, the hour after breakfast finds us at separate corners of our kitchen/dining room, slurping more coffee and poring over Thomas Keller and Cooks Illustrated.
“Lemons? We have lemons, right?”
“How about red pepper flakes? Are we almost out?”
“No, we’re good. How about flour? Oh, there it is.”
The fish is delicious. We eat it with grilled zucchini and squash and beer out on the screened-in porch, serenaded by Jay-Z and Soldier Boy from the teenagers across the street whose mother works every imaginable shift as a security guard.
And us? We live for the life we want. For me those are the fleeting moments with the dear students I have this semester or producing stories at my interim radio job. In free daylight moments, there’s a sensation of want as I scour the internet for jobs and collect rejections from agents who say the writing’s good but the subject matter’s not this or not that. In this striving, nothing fits. So we make popcorn. So we coast the beautiful springtime trail on our bicycles; we eat some rich brand of oatmeal cookie and bake popovers at a friend’s house. Fresh rosemary from the yard. Dreaming of the dish to come as I rake free its sticky spines with my fingers.
At my niece’s Girl Scout bridging ceremony, we cheer her on. We are louder than any of the other prim parents. But then I spot a pair of suede sandals on her classmate, decide I must have the adult equivalent, and the next morning I hunt down and purchase a pair on the internet. The shoes are hopelessly trendy; I would never have wanted them last year. But now there is no question.
I am all gratification where I can have it. I do what I have to and leave the rest. There’s a big pile of notebooks and folders and forms gathering tumbleweeds of cat hair beside this chair. It’s all so fleeting. I have gained five pounds. I sleep till eleven on Saturday. I sing as I cook. I imagine those shoes taking me down some sidewalk next year at this time, but when I try to lift my mind’s eye above the concrete, the scene will not come into focus.