When I woke this morning I had an intention for this post, which was going to be riddled with miniature rages played out in poetry, a treatise on how many of my friends aren’t who I thought they were, but after seven hours in the quiet space spent with my father, I came home with a markedly different perspective.
It’s strange, when you think about it, how many tears our body is capable of producing. Over the past three weeks I’ve cried all of them and then some. While I mourn the loss of my Sophie, I’m aware of the fact that I’m also struggling with a year of tremendous, sweeping change. For sixteen years I broke ranks in small offices and in buildings with multiple elevator banks, and now my days are mine to design. Amidst leaving a comfort that was always mildly uncomfortable, I suffered the greatest of losses. Part of me had begun to wonder if the losses were mounting, if they were becoming something incalculable. I spent sleepless nights imagining my father’s last breath shuddering out, and when I told him this today he said this: I’m going to die at some point, and I need you to be able to live through it. Because grief is something we need to endure, and we aren’t foolish for having loved in expectation of it.
Over chicken lettuce wraps at The Cheesecake Factory, I told my father that I’m frightened of losing everyone I love. I’m not good with loss, you know that. He shook his head and said something that reminded me of a quote: Just because the song ends doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the music. And in my father’s love, the enormity of his untarnished kindness and heart, I saw in him the music that I wanted to play on repeat. Songs I wanted to sing from the rafters.
He listened as I talked about Sophie for most of the day. I rolled down the window while he drove, and we laughed over all the moments that made me love someone else more than I love myself. I told my father that there are so many people in my life who are uncomfortable with grief, who don’t know how to navigate a Felicia that isn’t in control, that is vulnerable and sad and not always on autopilot with the answers. And this breaks me in ways you can’t imagine, because have I always been the sort of person trapped behind a mask? No one could imagine that my heart is this big and that it has the capacity to splinter and break?
Am I the sort of person who people believe to be inhuman? Again, there’s the splintering and shards that tumble out.
My father and I spent the day doing the simple we love to do. I told him about this pesto I’ve been making, and he asked after the basil. I shook my head and said this is rogue, this was chive and parsley and beef all the way. Brave, he said.
I’m trying so hard, I said, to be brave.
1 lb pasta (penne, rigatoni, cavatelli)
1 lb ground sirloin, browned in a large pan with a tablespoon of olive oil
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
3/4 cup chives, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese + 1 tbsp for topping
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt/pepper to taste
While the sirloin is frying in a large skillet, cook your pasta in a large saucepan with water that’s salted like the Mediterranean.
In a food processor, blitz the parsley and chives until they’re a rough paste, then add the cheese, olive oil and salt/pepper, until you get a thick, unctuous pesto. When your pasta is done, reserve 1/4 of the pasta water, drain the rest, and add the pasta to the skillet where you’ve cooked your beef. Toss in the pesto and reserve pasta water until your noodles and beef are coated and verdant.
Add a sprinkling of cheese (and olive oil, if this is your fancy) to your dish and serve hot.