For the first time in a very long time, I am sleeping alone in a house. I’m not sure when exactly this happened last–probably last summer when Alicia was sleeping with Aaron at the hostel and our other roommate was with her boyfriend–but the stillness in the house is something I am unaccustomed to. Ordinarily, even when I am shuttered in my room, I can hear Brian’s fluttering through the paper-thin doors and walls. I can track his movements through the house, hear where he is bouncing, listen to the turning of the pages in his books and the whirring of the wheels on the bicycle. Even when I am not looking, I know he is there, and that he pretty much always wants to talk to me.
He’s a comforting guy to have around.
This week, however, he is down in Dallas, looking after his own family while his father has brain surgery to treat Parkinson’s disease. We negotiated before he left, outlining the items he would leave behind and what he would return bearing from Dallas. His mountain bike stayed, so that I could introduce Zack to the wonders of the dirt trails. The camelback, the tire pump, the bike rack for the trunk of my car–all of these things Brian left behind for me. He agreed to return with speakers for our desktop, new IKEA lamps to replace the ones he has broken with his bouncing, and a jar of something both interesting and non-perishable from Central Market.
Beer, I will text him later. Be sure to bring back some beer.
In Texas, after all, they refrigerate their beer. Across the Red River, though, we’re heathens: it is illegal to sell cold beer here, if it is over 3.2% alcohol by weight. (I am told this is to prevent people from drinking the beer cold as soon as they leave the liquor store, before they drive themselves home. To which I respond: good alcoholics keep a bucket of salt water and ice chips for speed-cooling beer for that evening-commute pint.) Many of the good breweries know that Oklahoma is the land of legally mandated luke-warm beer, and refuse to sell their wares here, leaving us with no choice but to import the good shit from Texas. We haul it across the state line in coolers in the backs of cars, piggybacking beer orders on regular travel. Someone’s going to Dallas for a concert? Bring back a case of Fat Tire. Heading home for the break? A six pack of Stone IPA, please.
Holding your family together through brain surgery? … Better make that two cases of your favorite Belgian, dude, and we’ll hash it all out when you get back home.
In the meantime, I am here, in Norman, strangely devoid of my constant companion. I am not quite sure what to do with myself. I feel almost like a teen on a Friday night when the parents are out of town–like I should take advantage of the empty house. As a teen, this might have involved watching too much television, staying on the internet long past my thirty-minute limit, and eating pizza out of the box while sitting in the recliner. Reimagining those principles for the present, I could blast candy pop music on the tinny monitor speakers in the living room and dance naked in front of the sofa while eating out of a box of Fruit Loops… but Brian and I are sensible people, and the closest thing we have to Fruit Loops is Frosted Mini Wheats (yes, made with whole grains). Besides, while Brian would complain about the terrible (and yet delicious) pop music, he would not be phased by the naked dancing, and probably just want me to share the Fruit Loops.
I asked someone for suggestions of what to do with my empty house, and received this reply,
“Masturbate to extremely loud gopher porn in the living room.”
I looked at him, quizzically.
“What? Have you ever heard the noises a gopher makes? Now imagine their sex noises. It’s obscene.”
I know better than to investigate gopher porn on the internet (even though my blasted curiosity begs me to)–down that road leads madness and rodent cruelty charges. Besides, I think the neighborhood cats with their incredibly loud orgies take care of all of the animal-related obscenity that anyone needs around here.
But the question remains of what to do with myself until my wandering roommate returns home. In particular, there is the question of the fridge–it is full of food, much of it on the end of its edible lifespan (I did a big shop last Monday, and promptly became too ill to cook). Who will I feed, with all of my friends out of town? Who will eat with me? Brian, of course, is an exceptionally good eater, devouring even my stranger creations with gusto. Nothing ready-to-consume lasts in the face of his constant search for calories. But what will I do with all of this plenty when there is only me to eat it? It is time to make some new friends, indeed.
There is at least one container in my fridge that I know the fate of: I will be having leftover shakshuka for lunch for the next two days. Shakshuka, which has a fantastic ring to it, like the name of a lethal ninja weapon, is a spicy Israeli dish of poached eggs in tomato sauce. It is dead easy to make, and beyond delicious. I threw some chickpeas into the latest batch of it to kick up the fiber and the protein, but other than that I followed Deb’s recipe over at Smitten Kitchen. Oh, and I used smoked paprika instead of regular (it was all I had–don’t do this unless you drastically reduce the amount of paprika you add, unless you want shakshuka that punches you in the mouth with smokiness.) A dollop of Greek yogurt is a nice topping, if you don’t have feta at hand. Eat it with a spoon or off some toasted pita and you have a very delightful meal indeed.
Anyone want to come to dinner tomorrow?