Here on the East Coast we are in the midst of a good old-fashioned blizzard. I’m not sure if that’s the official word but the snow has been coming down for 15 hours; the sidewalk, stoops and street outside my apartment are covered in two feet of snow; and everything and everybody has been cancelled. That’s a blizzard even to this Masshole. (I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 23 years but once a Masshole, always a Masshole.)
I’m been the queen of preparation this round. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about living alone, it’s that gender coding is an ill-advised luxury; when you have to cook, shovel, clean, and fix everything from hems to technology to radiators yourself, it’s a bad call to get the vapors or cry caveman. Bundled in a wearable sleeping bag, face mask, and two scarves, it’s impossible to tell whether someone is a man, woman, non-binary gender person, or a “Revenant” bear, anyway.
So yesterday after reading distressing weather reports, I headed over to Red Hook Fairway, where I bought enough food to stock my refrigerator and freezer for two weeks (which is how long it’ll probably be before I’m able to safely drive Minerva again). I bought wonderful things: thick pork chops, lamb, dried apricots, pistachios and pecans, crushed tomatoes, ricotta, extra virgin olive oil, thick Greek yogurt, a roasted chicken, challah bread, a jug of organic cream, rosemary, mint, kale, and copperhead salmon. My enthusiasm was only mildly hampered by the fact that, even at 9 am, the store was clotted by Park Slopers who didn’t feel it appropriate to reign in their free-spirited children as the rest of us tripped over them.
Back home, I saw a handful of Ruby Intuition clients—while Mercury is still retrograde and we’re outside normal space and time, readings are afire—and when I came back up for air, I realized I had plenty more storm prep to do. So I gritted my teeth and tackled the list of What I Wish Someone Else Would Do: I pulled out my drill, uninstalled my enormous air conditioners, and carried them into the basement of my building. I changed Gracie’s litter since I had no interest in being holed up with a cat tempted to express herself through excretion. I polished all my apartment’s surfaces since I knew cleanliness would stave off cabin fever. I made use of my new ladder to pull a parka out of the closet above my closet–ah, the complicated glory of high-ceilinged apartments–and to change all the bulbs in my light fixtures since I’d once again broken a bunch. Then I dragged the ladder into the hallway and changed all the fire alarm batteries. They’d been beeping for weeks (the mechanized female voice intoning “low energy” was not remotely amusing), and the millennials in the rest of the building would only stare with slack jaws if they noticed the problem at all. Finally, in the middle of the night, I remembered to hustle downstairs to fetch my sturdiest boots from Minerva’s trunk, and move her to the left side of the street so she wouldn’t get buried by the plow.
Today I woke as cozy as can be. I drank some tea, watched an old movie, took a rose-scented bath, and considered the stew I already had vaguely assembled in my head: rosemary, mint, olives, beef stock, lamb, apricots, garlic flatbread, almonds, onions, garlic, fennel, carrots, parsnips. Still, something felt absent. I strapped on my fur hat and big scarf, zipped up my newly retrieved boots and parka, and hiked down to the wine store for a red to keep my meal company. Then I climbed back under the covers and watched the storm, voluptuous and steady, from the comfort of my bed with Grace. My apartment felt warm and snug, like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s cabin after Pa secured it. And still, the sense I’d forgotten something kept nagging at me.
Finally, I realized what it was: a second at my table. I had the jug of wine, the loaf of bread. But in keeping with this year’s conscious vulnerability, I caught myself actively desiring a “thou.” Whole unto myself I may be but I’ve been reciting an unfamiliar prayer: “Dear lord, send me another.” Make no mistake: I have no interest in sharing my table with just anyone. If I did, I’d have filled that seat long ago. But for the first time in more than a decade, I want to share the stew, not to mention the shoveling. (Mr. Oyster was never the type for either; I suspect he was an indication of my true desire to be alone.) The trick, I think, is to find someone else who’s been doing all that work. Oh, what an unlikely pair we may be.