There are different versions of myself that everyone has encountered at one time or another. None is a facade; rather, I consider the observing world to be like one of those at-times unflatteringly backlit, extendable mirrors fixed to the fitting room walls at H&M, the kind I can move to and fro as I twist between natural and unnatural postures in an effort to view my own butt. You all reflect back whatever angle it is you see from your position, and that is the version of me you have encountered.
I suppose if you met me this past week-and I wasn’t too preoccupied wondering if your security cameras were catching snippets of my hot bod between outfits-I may have been a bit quiet. First, I would like to thank all of you for not telling me to “Smile” this time around, because that is not a command I have always managed to escape. And I haven’t been unhappy, by the way. I’ve been pensive. And even if I were to experience a moment of unhappiness, would that be so terrible? Why are we so afraid to feel something other than what might be considered socially acceptable? Woop, there I go again.
One of the things that has replayed continually in my mind in this period of reflection is this wonderful post from Humans of New York that, in its abbreviated form, suggests to the reader, “When a wave comes, go deep.” As in, do not evade the ebbing, waning, crashing tides of life; go boldly through them. Because I openly categorize myself as a Nostalgic, I frequently revisit the things I have encountered to savor another soul-soothing sip. My return to this particular HONY post was quite fruitful, as I found with it a passage from Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore:
“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.
And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.
And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
Thankfully, there are certain storms that offer practice for the large-scale ones. This marinade, for example. As small and as meaningless as it is, it was a direct response to a pre-double-digit-dinner-party-seasoning-faux pas. Minutes before the meat was to hit the grill, I tasted the blend of spices I’d concocted (admittedly using someone else’s pantry) to find that the medley I had had to choose from was not nearly as fresh as my usual standards dictate (note: this is Polite for “the spices were no good, and it tasted no good, too”).
Q: So what do you do then? What do you do when your phone has started ringing with last-minute requests and questions about directions, and your grill-person is ready and waiting for the goods, and you will refuse to take credit for the off-tasting flavor of the centerpiece of a meal you spent hours preparing in another’s house?
A: You break out some shallots, olive oil, lime juice, chili flakes, and turmeric, and you make sure it’s seasoned really well with sea salt and pepper. You whisk and you whisk and, when the finished product is placed on the table, you clench your teeth as your guests take their first bites before telling you just how AWESOME it tastes. And then you make it again, and again, because it has become the kind of thing you crave on everything. And then it becomes this sort of meditation, in which you just have to make it through the storm to find deliciousness awaits.
Shallot Marinade with Chili and Turmeric
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 shallot, diced
1 scallion, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp (or more, if preferred) chili flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk vigorously until combined. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. Prepare about 3 hours (or up to one day) before use to ensure flavors have time to meld.