The porch light had burned out, I remembered as I walked quickly up the sidewalk. The footsteps behind me had seemed menacing in the late night, though I no longer heard them when I turned up the street toward home.
Now it was a Saturday, monthly concert evening. But the music that ordinarily transported me from my everyday existence had left me wanting tonight, not from the lack of skill on the part of the pianist, but more likely from my own state of mind as I walked into the concert, the untorn ticket for the seat beside mine still in my wallet. He had said 7:30–I was sure of it–but as 7:40, then 7:50 went past without a word, without a sign, I walked into the crowded hall and found my seat.
The night would not be spoiled, beloved music still promising its sweetness on a soft, warm evening. But the Chopin I so dearly love only irritated me in its perfection, as if it were mocking me along with the couples casually touching hands as they leaned into one another to whisper, a giggle, an arm swept around a shoulder. Intermission came, and I glanced at my messages in the lobby, then felt a lump in my throat, a warm embarrassment sweeping over me at it as I saw that he had not answered my text, not even now. I walked outside, cherry trees blooming all around in the glow of spring. I looked up at the stars, wishes so faraway, the cherry blooms, oh, bitter sweetness. I dried my eyes, and felt a sudden urge to be anywhere but there.
The streets were filled on this beautiful night, muffled voices, an occasional laugh drifting out from the restaurants, the clink of glasses. Wine cooked off in a sauce, that aroma stopped me, beckoned me, aroused my hunger. I glanced back at the glowing lights, turned back, and walked into the cafe.
It was you, I should have known, you, bent over your magic pan, the whisk quick in the thickening sauce, the heat, your face flush from the hot stove. I knew, the thyme, the memory of your hands on mine. You stood behind me once as I chopped for you, carrots, onions, celery, your wine-lush lips on the back of my neck. You threw the vegetables into the sizzling butter, tossed them, then turned me around and kissed me, pushing my blouse away from my shoulder. We sipped that wine, that crisp white wine poured onto the mirepoix, the thyme on top, we cheered and sipped, gulped, the droplets from your glass then falling onto my chest, my buttons undone as the wine dripped down, your mouth tracing the trail of the wine, you brusquely pulling my bra from my breast, and kissing me there, there in the kitchen, my nipples firm, and ripe, and wanting.
The beef would sit in that stock with the mirepoix for a long time, I knew. I used to know the nature of braises, their slow simmer, your teasing kisses in the meanwhile, the long road, the unhurry, the same ending, always, and none the less satisfying for the repetition. I had forgotten.
I had forgotten, the pleasure, the elixir, brown stock, your beard scraping the soft flesh of my inner thighs. It was you, yes, you in that kitchen. I ordered the wine, and today’s special, and I sent my compliments to the chef.
It was spring, as I walked back past the concert hall, now dark, a cool wind picking up, raindrops starting to fall, the glowing lights gone, stars gone, cherry blossoms blowing from the trees. The streets had emptied, nearly, only a few pedestrians out now, hurrying, like me. I rummaged through my purse, and pulled out my keys as I made my way back to my dark house.
You startled me, my heart pounding as you appeared suddenly behind me, grasped my long hair and pulled my neck to your impatient mouth. I began to scream, and you hushed me, the heady scent of stock still in your hair, subduing me. My keys fell to the ground, it was you, your beard now scraping my neck, your hands round my wrists as you pushed me roughly to the door, my breath short, your kisses cool, soothing my raw skin.
It was you, your hair, sweat, pillow still warm, fingers, lips gently tracing the lash marks on my backside in the early morning light, the cream, coffee, wet grass and blooms, wet street, the gently turned eggs, the luxury of rain, cool, the lost, the recovered, the here, the now.