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Comfort Food

An easygoing husband is the one indispensable comfort of life. — Marie Louise De La Ramee

‘You know what sounds really good right now?” David looked up from the magazine in his hands. “Frozen ravioli with Hunt’s tomato sauce,” I said. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t for my beh beh’s face to sink the way it does when I say things such as, “It’s time to go to the gym.” He looked…deflated. “What? What’s wrong?”

“I thought we’d made progress,” said David. “I could make you something that tastes a lot better than Hunt’s tomato sauce.”

“Of course you could. I just had a craving, that’s all. What’s up? You seem upset that I’m craving something.”

“It’s not that you’re craving something,” David said, his eyes investigating my face. “It’s that you’re craving comfort food, and if you’re craving comfort food, it means you’re distressed.”

“I don’t feel distressed,” I said, realizing it was a lie once the words were out of my mouth. Since returning from Montreal, I’d been feeling the pressure of unaccomplished tasks, the creeping sensation of anxiety. That, compounded by some extraordinary PMS symptoms, made me a wreck. “I was just saying, it sounded good. Anyway, forget about it. Any good cartoons this week?” David held an interrogative gaze on me. Seemingly satisfied by my nonchalance, he opened the New Yorker and showed me a few select cartoons. Once we were in the throes of trying to interpret the meaning of one of the more ambiguous drawings, we’d both forgotten my hankering for Hunt’s.

Two days later, David intercepted me as I was moping around the kitchen. With a firm but gentle hand on my elbow, he guided me to a chair by the window and brought me a glass of red wine. I was well into my second glass and under my love’s watchful eye when the phone rang. I was staring out the window when David put the phone to his hip and said, “It’s Josue. He’s marinated some steaks and wants to share them with us.”

“Tell him to come on up,” I said listlessly. “But I don’t want any. You guys go ahead and enjoy it, though, I’m sure I can find something else to eat.” David had the phone back on his ear and was asking Josue to come on up when I stage-whispered, “Steak sounds gross.”

A few minutes later our friend was at the door, proffering an unnecessary but courteous knock before entering. I gulped the last of the wine in my glass as Josue set a plastic container on the counter. “You’re not going to have any steak?” he asked.

“It’s okay, we have plenty of food here,” David answered for me.

“We don’t have frozen ravioli and Hunt’s tomato sauce,” I grumbled under my breath, apparently loud enough for both men to hear. David looked up from the shelves of the refrigerator; I felt bad as I realized he’d been searching for something to make for me. He closed the door and sighed. I held up my empty glass, and David indulged me before pouring a glass for Josue.

“Barb, we can wait to cook the steak if you want to go to the store right now,” Josue suggested.

Swaying a bit, I looked to David beseechingly; again, he obliged. “Barb can’t drive.”

I held up my glass and smiled crookedly to prove the point and said, “It’s okay, guys, there’s plenty of stuff in the house.” There was little conviction in my words, and I’m sure David sensed that I was secretly hoping for him to do exactly what he was about to do.

“You two stay here,” David said. “I’ll be right back.” Just before David slipped through the front door, I made an additional plea for dark chocolate. Hearing me, he sighed again and disappeared. Josue shrugged his shoulders and sat in the chair across from me. We chatted and sipped our wine for 15 minutes, at which point David returned with a handful of grocery bags.

Josue and I stood and hovered around the granite island, doing what we could to help. David set a large pot of water on the stove to boil and then searched the cupboards for a good steak skillet. Josue took the lid off the plastic container, revealing the steaks as he detailed the composition of his marinade for David. I went straight to the bags and retrieved a small can of Hunt’s tomato sauce, a packet of ravioli (not frozen, but that was cool), and a bundle of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate. My spirits lifted upon seeing the comforting trinity.

I grabbed the plate David had set aside for me and exchanged it for a green bowl, an action I assumed was innocuous until David snapped, “What, you can’t even use my plate?”

“What are you talking about? I just prefer to eat it out of a bowl,” I said.

Enlisting Josue as mediator, David said, “She had that bowl before she met me. I guess she doesn’t want to use one of mine.”

“Whoa,” I said, not to David, but to Josue. “This is just a good, sturdy bowl. It’s not that I don’t want to use his plate, I don’t want to use a plate.” Josue looked uncomfortable, so I tried to lighten the mood by saying, “David, I told you not to argue in front of the child.” Josue laughed at this, but the scowl on David’s face remained.

David turned back to the sizzling steak and ravioli floating in water, the latter of which he poured into a strainer for me. “Whoa, what’s that? There’s all kinds of shit in here,” I said, gesturing at chunks of orange and green clinging to the side of the colander.

“Those are tomatoes and basil,” David said. “I thought you’d like the kind with stuff in it.”

“Oh, well, yes, thank you, beh beh,” I said. I scooped the ravioli into the green bowl with a spoon and lifted the can of Hunt’s. “What the…this isn’t the plain tomato sauce; it’s flavored.”

David looked contrite. “I’m sorry, I didn’t notice. All the cans looked the same.”

“No worries. It was nice of you to go out and get all this for me. It’s perfect,” I said. But in my head I was shrieking, All wrong…this is all wrong! I could never say anything, not after the trouble he went to, so I smiled, grabbed my bowl, and followed David to the couches. We sat down with our meals, the men with their steak and me with my bastardized version of nostalgia. David and Josue talked about how wrong it was to pour the sauce onto the ravioli straight from the can. “That’s how we always ate it,” I said.

A few hours later, after Josue had gone home and the plates (and bowl) had been loaded into the dishwasher, I confronted David about his weirdness over my craving. I asked him why it mattered to him whether or not I felt like eating sauce from a can.

“It bothers me to see you upset. I want your life to be all bluebirds and rainbows,” he said.

“But it seems like you’re more bothered by the kind of food I was craving than the reasons I was craving it,” I argued.

“Well, it’s just…” David looked frustrated for a moment, then put an arm around me and rested his chin on the top of my head. “When you get upset and the only thing that can comfort you is food from your childhood, it’s like you fell and skinned your knee and then ran to your mom or dad instead of me.”

“Oh,” I said, because that’s all I could think of to say. I squeezed him tighter and then took a step back so I could get a clear look at his face. I chuckled, unable to believe my luck in having someone who cares for me as much as David does. Before he could misinterpret my laughing, I said, “Don’t you know that you’re my rock? I mean, how the hell could I survive as such a spaz if I didn’t have you to lean on? Come here.” I pulled him close and embraced him with all my might, recognizing with both terror and relief that this anchor in my arms was the one thing keeping me on the pretty side of sanity.

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