When Frederic got sober, I didn’t drink for a long time. I had some sense of…loyalty, I suppose. As if my not drinking would keep him from drinking. There was a sense of desperation in sobriety.
And then, out of futility, I gave up not drinking. Because I realized, nothing I was doing was going to keep F sober. Nothing I could do would keep my brother sober, either. Everyone was going to do whatever they wanted to do, regardless of me, and my digging my heels in, and my self-deprivation, and my…whatever.
Now, years later, I have a different relationship with my own obsessive personality; I have a different relationship with alcohol and with other people’s problems. (This goes back to the idea that I don’t know anyone who is not daily processing about as much baggage as LaGuardia–possibly JFK.)
Hence…Winesday. One part dinner party; one part cocktail hour; one part group therapy.
Last night’s theme was “Bring the Food of Your People.” The theme was open to creative interpretation.
But WK, who arrived at Winesday late due to a speaking engagement…his contribution took the cake.
The man disappeared into the kitchen upon arrival and quickly donned my pink apron.
(You should know, Billy spills things. He’s…messy, his mother once warned me)
“What are you doing in there?”
I peeked my head inside the kitchen.
“Seriously, what’s going on?” I demanded.
“Don’t you worry your pretty little head. Go back to Winesday.”
There was batter splattered EVERYWHERE. On the counter; on the stove; on the toaster; on the electric kettle. Mama K had not lied.
15 minutes or so later, he emerged from the kitchen, still apron-clad, carrying plates of mysterious goods, which he placed before Mrs. Santucci, Alice and me.
“Behold, a culinary tour through the life of WK!”
“Is that the amuse bouche?” I giggled.
He held up his hand, as if to shush me. “For an amuse,” he continued, “We have Kix, my brother’s favorite cereal. As you know, my dad is in the food business, and we always had cereal. All the time. Ladies, please. I invite you to sample the amuse.”
We barely managed to choke down the spoonful of cereal through our shrieks of laughter.
“And now, for our main course…” he handed out paper plates with pancakes on them, “Pancakes. You will notice that the pancakes have been made in the shape of your initials. You will also notice that there are no forks. This is because Senior used to take us camping, and we inevitably forgot something. For instance, a lantern. So there was my dad, shining a maglite on my brother’s food. ‘Okay, T, it’s your turn.’ And T would eat his beans. And then, ‘Ok, WK, it’s your turn.’ And I would scarf down my beans. And so on and so forth.”
“I should also mention,” he continued, “That my dad used to make us breakfast for dinner when it was his turn to feed us. And he used to make us pancakes in the shape of our initials.”
Again, we barely managed to choke down the food through our laughter.
“For our last course, we have pigs in blankets. This is because when I was heading off to college, the alumni association of my university held a picnic for the incoming freshmen. I was eating my hotdog…but you know, I tend to eat food fast; take big bites. Next thing I knew, I was choking; mom was screaming. My little brother had to give me the heimlich. Out pops the food. Super embarassing.”
“Fast forward to mid-freshman year, I’m hitting on this beautiful girl. Or at least, she seemed beautiful at 1:30am. Suddenly she says, ‘I know where you’re from! You’re the guy who choked on the hot dog!'”
We laughed, again.
He handed us all a small glass of beer. “And finally, a small taste of Brooklyn lager, because I’m living in Brooklyn.”
I felt something sharp and looked down. He’d cracked one of my glasses.
We toasted, and finished out another successful Winesday.
As he was helping me to clean up, I heard another crash in the kitchen. Sheepishly, he emerged, carrying two halves of a dinner plate.
“Damn it,” I said, “I’ve had those since college, and not a one has ever broken!” I didn’t want to say that I’d moved from California to Washington with them; all around Washington; from Washington to New York. That throughout the last ten years, those plates had been the one constant in my life.
I suppose there is a first time for everything.
“Do you want me to glue it back together?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I laughed. Because it was like a weight had been taken off of me–those plates I had so carefully preserved; those things I had protected and cherished. I used to pride myself on the fact that the set was still complete after ten years. But now that one was broken; in the moment that one broke, I realized that they were just things. They weren’t really symbolic of anything, after all.
Winesday has come to be something I cherish. Something I make a priority; something I can commit to. With me, it’s baby-steps. Baby-steps towards stability and commitment; tiny, often imperceptible movements towards something different and greater than the sum of these shattered, wacky, wonderful, transformative parts.