- The importance of tipping baristas. The work of steam and coffee beans. The grind of grinding, of compacting the grounds, the way you did at home with the cinnamon container, one of three cinnamon containers because when we moved in together with Sean, we all came with our own cinnamon, but none of us with a willingness to squash cockroaches or a real stomach for killing mice. And it was like a cartoon, watching you and Sean scheme ways of eliminating the mice family we could hear at night scurrying through our walls. He set traps. Caught one even, its carcass rotted in his closet. I stayed out of the mice massacre, wanted nothing to do with the killing. Took no responsibility for the fact that I lived there also. My solution was not to kill the mice but to hide the sweet teas in plastic Tupperware containers, so the mice would stop nibbling through the packages of milk tea and gobbling it up. You finally fixed the problem with duct tape and rat poison, an old dish towel, all stuffed into the mouse hole in the back of the cabinet. We all knew the bodies would rot, the little mouse bodies with their little mouse feet. But that’s the next tenant’s problem. This isn’t our house, not really. Only the place we eat, cook, make love in, only the place we come home to after long shifts, where I sleep in your arms. Only home. And I think it’s very telling, that my solution was to accommodate the problem, not fix it, and your solution was to make it the next person’s problem. No skin off your back. I think the problem you made of me, the knots you tied in my spirit, undermining my ability to trust, they were like the dead mice. The next person’s problem. No skin off your back.
- The importance of refrigerating wine and how quickly even sweet wine turns bitter once it’s open. That wine oxidizes quickly. A short shelf life. You taught me everything I know about alcohol. How to mix. How to pour. Where rum comes from and what it’s made of. The long history of vodka and beer. Beer was a staple once, people needed it to survive because of its high caloric content. People didn’t drink to get drunk or drink to have class, to make culture out of intoxication. They drank for the energy of the thing. For the sake of civilization building. And that ancient beer was less drink, more soup. Beer was sustenance. Not optional. Alcohol wasn’t optional in our house either. You asked me once, when everything was over, what I got out of our relationship other than a binge drinking habit. You wanted me to justify your worth. To validate you, the way I had a thousand times before. To say, yes Rene, you are worthy of love and that is why I loved you. You’ll never believe me though. So I didn’t. Go validate yourself. While you’re at it, go fuck yourself too. I drink so much less now that I’m out of that house on Harvard in the Bricklight district with the homeless men and the punk house parties and Sean’s booming speakers and LED tipped white gloves that he pulled out at our weekly house parties that I get buzzed off one beer now. It used to take two. At least four to feel drunk. I haven’t been drunk in two months.
- How to make crepes—only three ingredients. The fold, the stir, the pour, the flip. I couldn’t flip a pancake before you. Didn’t know how to tell when bacon was done. You knew so much more about paying bills and the cost of being jobless and the desperation of hunger, and the hunger of hunger, and how to schmooze, how to hustle, how to cook and clean and scrub walls and one time drunk you scrubbed our walls clean because it brought you joy and you used to be sweet to me and bring me surprise flowers and take my hand and tell me I am wanted and beautiful and good. But you knew nothing about loving yourself. About telling yourself you are wanted and beautiful and good. You didn’t know how to forgive yourself. Only how to push down anger. How to repress. How to model perfection. You could not abide imperfection in yourself. Couldn’t paint pictures or decorate cakes or write poems anymore, because art is made out of mistakes and happy accidents. You used to do those things. You made the most beautiful cake for my 18th birthday: yellow cake, white frosting and piped red roses. You hit a wall only once while we lived together. You tamed that temper so thoroughly while we dated. When I met you, there was so much anger in you. I had no anger. Nothing to be angry about. Now I do.
CATHY COOK graduated with my Bachelor’s in English from the University of New Mexico in May 2017. My poetry has been published in The Chaffey Review and in three editions of Conceptions Southwest. My news articles and columns have been published in The Daily Lobo, and I’ve written nonfiction pieces for exhibits at the Holocaust and Intolerance Museum of New Mexico.