You are thirty-six and this is your life. There was a time when you sat on the ledge, knees pressed up against the glass, waiting for the gloaming. Nightfall is your time. On the radio the disc-jockey plays “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” and you turn the volume up to ten. Many of your friends tell you that you’re like this — a volume ten. In response, you feign agreement. Create diversions. Down the hall the motley lot open and slam metal doors, kicking tight shirts out of the closet, busy in the thick of a pre-game, sloe-gin buzz. You are past the Zima stage and knee-deep in Absolut. You haven’t yet acquired a taste for wine because vodka is cheap and always gets the job done. Inside your room your roommate plays puppeteer; she plays out the night before she hits the gates, flashes her ID. She’s deliberate this way. She folds the creases in her shirts this way.
You contemplate escape. A house in the woods. Four walls, a thatched roof, a little garden that grows beets. But then you remember you hate beets and the fiction is ruined, so you listen to your roommate drone on about this boy on the crew team, and this puts you to thinking of Brooklyn and how the word crew held an entirely different meaning. You’re so quiet, so withdrawn into the recesses of the glass, watching all of your friends travel in packs toward the bar that sells fifty-cent drafts that you don’t notice your roommate shaking your shoulder. What do you think?
What if this, this life, was not what was intended? What if we were meant for something other? Felicia, you’re funny, she says. Everyone seems to think you’re funny. Everyone but you. You wonder if this friendship will last beyond the confines of four years in the Bronx.
Your roommate plays “The Fly” and shimmies her hips, and you decide that you like the bloody song better.
Years later you’re in bar called 1020. It’s turning out to be one of those nights that starts one way and ends another. You’re wearing this plaid wool skirt and red sweater and someone asks you if you know how to shoot pool. In response you say that pool was your mother’s game — you don’t touch the stuff. You’re funny. Did anyone ever tell you that? On the way to the bathroom you bump into the woman who will alter you. She will be the one on the phone that day in February when you tell her that you have the shakes. That you’ve got to quit the drink. That there’s no other way. And she will pull you out of the dark country and into the light — this woman will alter. Organizational managers call these people change agents. But that night you exchange an excuse me, because it’s not yet time. You’re not ready for her, yet.
A few years later you meet her again, in Russia, and you talk about pills. You trade black-outs and highs like baseball cards. She annoys you with the constant gum-smacking and penchant for erratic fidgeting, but something about her unnerves you, puts your heart on pause, and for the next six years she is the whole of your world.
You remember that cab ride downtown and how you both fall back on old stories to fill the large spaces. Over the past few months the ground has opened up between the two of you — you can feel the reverberation, the splintering, the fissuring — and you can’t stop it. There was a definitive moment when you stopped needing her; you must have become a stranger to her, barely an apparition of the single self you both used to be. And the one story you both long to tell — the heartbreaking ending to the story of us — you couldn’t. Where are the words? How do we form them? How do you measure the end of a great love? How do you quietly drift? So instead you tell a story, like you always do, and she says, You’re funny. But this is not.
And when your mother phones, a crackling voice over a telephone line, a voice of over a decade past, it is your college roommate who makes you watch funny movies until you laugh out the tears. It’s she who listens as you weep into a phone receiver, and holds your hard through the dark spaces. She is the one friend who you never imagined would endure, but does. She is the one friend who is a constant, the beloved who remains.
You are thirty-six and this is your life. And you think about your dearest friend, Elizabeth, who is that great quiet love that has not altered. And as you bake this pastry, you somehow think of all of this — the past and present and back again — and how this one friend knew you when you thought it smart to dump wisticher sauce in an Italian lasagna.
Look how far you’ve come.
Blueberry Crumble Galette (Recipe courtesy of Country Cleaver), with alterations.
Pie Crust: 1 9-in pie
3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
6 tbsp butter, cut into cubes and frozen
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup iced water
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tsp rhubarb (or maple) syrup
1 egg white, for brushing pie crust
1/2 cup rolled oats
5 tbsp cold butter, cubed
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
For Pie Crust:
Although you can blitz this to the size of small peas in a food processor, inspired by old memories, I decided to give this a go by hand. In a large bowl, cut the dough with a pastry cutter or use a fork and spoon. What you’re trying to do is incorporate the butter, flour and water until a dough starts to form. Once you have a mass that starts to cling together, remove the dough form from the bowl. On a well-floured surface, knead together dough for 2-3 minutes. Roll out dough on a floured surface until the crust is about 12″ in diameter. Place dough onto a large square of parchment paper and set parchment and rolled dough into a large cookie sheet.
In the middle of the round of pie crust, pour the blueberry mixture into the middle. Corral blueberries into the middle in a mound. Fold outer edges of the pie crust over the berries to contain them. Brush edges of the pie crust with egg whites.
In a medium bowl, combine all crumble topping ingredients by hand by massaging the butter into the oat and sugar mixture. You want the consistency of fat peas. Pour over the blueberry galette and allow to fall into the cracks and crevices of the blueberries.
Bake galette in the cast iron for about 30 minutes or until the crumble and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for 20 minutes in the cast iron once it has been removed from the oven. Slice while warm and serve with ice cream.