|In red ink, my father marked a sentence in The Early Asimov, Volume I|
About a year ago, I climbed an active volcano. A week later, it erupted. What felt like two days after that, a hurricane hit that very spot. Calamity follows in my wake and coincidences like these that have prompted many a friend to suggest a bubble wrap bodysuit would be an appropriate birthday present for me.
Lately, I have learned to revel in a different kind of bubble wrap. It is a bubble that forms at night, in the absence of conflict, fear or worry. It is a bubble of joy and it tastes like scrambled eggs.
It usually starts with leggings. When I was living in the United States, websites instructed women that, in so many words, “leggings are not pants, please cover your rear end.” In my bubble, away from sartorially-trained eyes, leggings are pants enough.
My bubble involves pages of Zadie Smith and Mary Oliver, read on the couch, in leggings, while waving away mosquitoes with the hand that is not holding the book.
I interrupt Elijah’s reading to point out we have only each had cereal for dinner. The cereal was packaged in Greece, rendering it the only item in the grocery store I can read with utter certainty. Somehow, that made it tastier. No matter where cereal was packaged, it will never count as enough dinner in Elijah’s eyes. This is a recurrent theme: When I am wrapped up in work, or writing, or Zadie Smith’s words, my stomach does not grumble. The rest of the world melts away and hunger does not register. And when it does, cereal or celery sticks or popcorn will do. There was one summer during my college years when I lived in a room with no air-conditioning or kitchen. I credit that summer for my tolerance of heat and blame it for instilling in me the skewed sense that baby carrots and canned baby corn count as dinner.
After too much time in opposite corners of the world, and after I got hit by a truck, Elijah and I found ourselves sharing a closet, a kitchen and a life this fall. Elijah was repeatedly exasperated with my inability to ask for help while I recovered form my injuries, while I slowly found glimmers of joy in lying in bed in my nightgown at two in the afternoon, eating the omelets Elijah made for me. And the pasta. And the schnitzel. And, and, and. Elijah’s food became part of my bubble.
My ribcage is no longer shattered, but Elijah remains the cook between us. Culinary talent somehow did not squeeze into my Greek chromosomes. I make tasty coffee, and cereal, and popcorn, and I can put cilantro on almost anything and call it “flavor”. So when I asked Elijah tonight if he’d like some scrambled eggs, he put his book down and earnestly asked,”you can make scrambled eggs…yes?”
Luckily for both of us, I do. My bubble today involved scrambled eggs consumed in bed at midnight, with some sauteed onions, garlic and mushrooms… and a dash of cilantro. You know, for flavor.
My bubble involves comfort, and laughter, and love, and a pinch of nostalgia. Elijah is reading a book he picked up at the house in which I grew up. The Early Asimov: Volume I belonged to my father. My father was a chemical engineer, a lover of astronomy and the cosmos and science fiction; naturally, Asimov was his guilty pleasure. The book was purchased in the 1970s in Kozani, in the periphery of Greece. Reading it in Beer Shevah in 2011, Elijah found a mark on page 112. The phrase my father had underlined read: “nothing is so weak that it cannot be strengthened.”
The scrambled eggs in bed at midnight, the can-do optimism of the sentence in the Asimov book, the remembrance of my father and the recognition that of all sentences, that would be the one that stayed with him — that is the stuff of love and comfort and nostalgia that makes up my bubble today.