Those are the facts. Now I lie in the sun and play solitaire and listen to the sea (the sea is down the cliff but I am not allowed to swim, only on Sundays when we are accompanied) and watch a hummingbird. I try not to think of dead things and plumbing. I try not to hear the air conditioner in that bedroom in Encino. I try not to live in Silver Wells or in New York or with Carter. I try to live in the now and keep my eye on the hummingbird. I see no one I used to know, but then I’m not just crazy about a lot of people. I mean maybe I was holding all the aces, but what was the game? One thing in my defense, not that it matters: I know something Carter never knew, or Helene, or maybe you. I know what “nothing” means, and keep on playing. ― Joan Didion, Play It as It Lays
Even thought it’s last call, I still want to sing the songs that used to make us laugh, the hymns that once made us happy. Even though the floors stink of chlorine and wet mops and the lights glare bright, I want to belt octaves. Every song comes to an end but that doesn’t mean we stop longing for the music. Instead we lift the needle, settle it down, and play it all again. Hoping that the melody will transport us back to a time we were wide-eyed and wet behind the ears, when every day was filled with so much possibility. It reminds us of childhood when we’d make a mess of things, but we didn’t care; we’d run around until nightfall, until we were called back inside. Until we collapsed in our beds and shut our eyes to the dark. We’d live in this private fiction until the adults found us out. There was always a snitch in the group.
Children create worlds that adults find ways to ruin. Because that’s what we do — wreck beautiful things and spend our lives in disrepair. We bring in the suits with their calculators, shiny gadgets and fast maths and they run the formulas, assess the damages and deliver a report that tells us what we already knew: we should have left well enough alone. The cost of repair is so far beyond what we’ve lost. The suits shake their heads, You should have just let them play it as it lays.
Some of us make it out before we get sick on the nostalgia; shuffling the deck we are determined to play out a new hand. When no one is looking we sometimes hum the songs we use to know. Others lock themselves in their private prison of regret, listening to scratched records on repeat. Few of us never look back.
This week is the first mark of the end of an era. A man who has been an incredible mentor to me has left, and it took everything in me not to cry. During his farewell party I read a speech I’d prepared and my hands shook as I read the words aloud, and I told to a roomful of people that I was a better woman because of his friendship and a better leader because of his tireless mentorship. For three years we stood in integrity and one of my favorite people is gone. He is one of the best men I know; he’s one who pushed me to realize my greatness, and my heart broke when he left. All I wanted to do was stop the clocks, rewind, and go back to the days I sat in his office prattling on about this and that. And although I know that our friendship will grow and he’ll be present in my life, it’s still sad that every day I won’t hear the voice that is the only one louder than my own.
So forgive me as I try on sadness for size. Today I told someone that it’s so fucking sad. What’s sad, he asked. All of it. Every last minute of this. Think of it like the loss of a great love. You know that this person isn’t the one, but the break still hurts regardless. You still bruise and ache and cry your eyes out.
What stops me from stepping into that prison and listening to those scratched songs is that there’s a bigger hand left to play.
So I came home, mourned a little, cooked a little, and started shuffling the deck.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Blue Apron
3 cloves garlic
1 small onion
1 persian cucumber
1 sprig fresh oregano
1/2 head red leaf lettuce
1 16oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 ciabatta rolls
Get your mise en place: Peel the garlic, onion, shallot, cucumber and carrot. Finely dice the onion, garlic and shallot. Thinly slice the cucumber and carrot. Pick the oregano leaves off the step and roughly chop. Wash, dry, and roughly chop the lettuce leaves. Slice the mozzarella.
Make the sauce: Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and sauté the onions and garlic for one minute under low heat. Add in the can of tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium-low for ten minutes until the sauce thickens. I loathe chunky tomatoes so I used an immersion blender to smooth out the sauce once it was done. But this is me and I have texture issues so if you love the chunk, embrace the chunk.
Make the dressing: While the sauce is cooking, whisk the shallots, 3 tbsp olive oil, mustard and vinegar in a bowl until completely combined. Set aside.
Assemble the panini: Slice the ciabattas in half. Spread a thin layer of sauce on both rolls. Top 2 halves with 2-3 slices of fresh mozzarella and sprinkle half of the oregano on each. Season with salt, pepper and sprinkle a tsp of parmesan cheese over both halves. Carefully put the two halves together.
Grill the panini: I’m privileged that I had a panini press so I went crazy and added the sandwiches to the press. If you don’t have one, don’t fret. Heat a large pan until medium-hot and add the sandwiches. Place a heavy pot to weigh them down. Cook about three minutes a side until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasty.
Dress the salad + serve!: Toss the greens, carrots, cucumbers and dressing together in a large bowl and prepare half of the salad on two plates. Serve with the piping hot paninis, careful not to burn your mouth like I did!