A pair of touring musicians spent the night on our living room floor a few years ago. I woke in the morning to find all my Oreos, and much of my whiskey, gone. Earlier this week a professional photographer slept in our spare room. I kept a close watch on the man, and our goods.
[Painting: The Thief on the Roof by Fernando Botero, 1980]
I leave the pieces of lettuce large when making salads. It irritates Nina. She makes most of the salads in our house, and keeps the lettuce uniform and small - the right size for stabbing with forks and cramming into mouths. I shrug off her objections not because I’m laid-back. I am certainly not. I don’t take criticism well. I shrug because it’s not by accident that I leave the lettuce in long and wide pieces, as close to whole as possible without becoming totally absurd. They dangle from the tip of a fork like a loose sail or a tarp in the back of a moving truck. It reminds me of a picnic table and lunches under fruit trees in the breezes of summer, when the lettuce was picked from a small garden and torn in half and thrown in a bright yellow bowl. I’m brought back to a time when the sun was warmer and when olive oil dripped from our chins. I see the rays of the sun through a bottle of red wine vinegar, bursting from the glass in a million new directions.
[Image: Vegetarians Judge on sheetrock by Joseph McVetty III, date unknown]
Small crosses appeared in the darkened corners of our home. They arrived with early spring and its firm breezes. With the smell of the dirt through open windows. Green and yellow and smaller than your little finger, they were made from the palm fronds we pulled out of large baskets on the altar after Palm Sunday mass. My grandmother, a seamstress who spent her life bent over a sewing machine, tore thin ribbons, folding and weaving through a loop to conjure these perfect little crosses. She hid them in every dark nook, where the evil things hide. They protected us for the whole of the year. You bumped into them running your hand across the cool linen in a top drawer. A palm cross huddled alone in the dim at the base of a copper pot with a long spout. One was buried deep in the woodpile, and one in the fireplace too, among the ashes of winter. They were in with the knives in the kitchen and tucked away in a sleeve in a chest full of sweaters. One always in the bottom of the scratchy baskets woven from the split bark of olive trees by old ladies slumped in doorways.
[Painting: A Palm Sunday Painting by German artist Kai Althoff, year unknown]
The only doctor my grandfather admitted to seeing was a fiction. Dr. Menanni. The name, in some loose Italian, means to take away or subtract years. “What did Dr. Menanni tell you this time, Bruno?” My father asked, egging him on from across the table. “He told me to have just one glass of red wine a day, but he never said how big a glass.” We laughed, no matter how many times we’d heard it before, and my Nonno sipped his cognac with big, wet mischief eyes blazing away.
I tried the joke out on my real doctor when she told me how too much booze can fuck up your heart rhythms and kill the muscle over time. She laughed, but I think she was just being polite.
[Painting: The Drinkers by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890]