No picture this time because food was so bad. The kitchen, which prepared the takeaway in front of me, tried hard and worked like crazy, getting it hot and out.
I was excited, in my narrow, private way, because it was New Year’s Day, and I was solo.
Waiters in Italy strew salt on platters as if they were trying to melt ice on streets. Invisible sugar fairies did the same on my chopped pork ribs, green beans in garlic sauce, wet-mop sesame noodles. Only the egg roll, a silly schoolboy crush, rose to its hot, greasy promise.
Not a blink of garlic in the cornstarch mess.
I’ve never had 2020 vision, and that’s because I was always told something was wrong. My parents were confused, to say the least, by their vocal diabetic son and tried their level best to make sure I survived.
“Level best” isn’t all that good. Blame is also a negative, and here I am, a member of a spanking-new septuagenarian gay group. At our first lunch, I played with my pump as if I were texting my insulin heroes, Banting, Best, Macleod. Not one of my fellows sees or cares, but that’s because old folks are even more self-concerned (is that kind enough?) than the aging, but younger, assortment at tables around us, preening, cooing, and snatching each other’s fries.
I can’t recall what I ate. It may have been tepid soup and perhaps a sparkling BLT, half of which always goes home, because my optimistic imagination of flavor has less and less to do with my dulled appetite. Age or politics? I had read the news today (add: oh boy), as I do every day.
The gorgeous Lyft driver who took me to the station (add: I took myself to the train) had bee-stung lips and armfuls of butch tattoos. He wanted to be a writer. I explained how, in 13 online minutes. He shook my hand so gratefully, I almost cried, as I almost did when I taught Vietnam vets how to write about their raw, maimed memories so very, very long ago. One of them, doubly brave, sobbed in class.
“Never use ‘very.’ “
He didn’t want a tip. I said to sit still for 15 minutes a day in a quiet place and write about anything, farting passengers, the awesome sex he had, his fantastic otherworld life.
“Do you read?”
“Sometimes,” he said. “Do you believe in the news?”
I replied that I was worried not about what was fake, but what was left out. He listened to anything I said with trembling attention that went well beyond customer service. Or so I allowed myself to think.
Rain was immanent, the clouded light dimming at January dusk, and, as I boarded, I thought about the prospect of my own new year: a dark remeasuring of hope, food, and love.