January 21, 2005

Comfort Food

By Novice © 2005

It is 2 AM, and I am awake. My stomach becomes cranky in the wee hours, and for some God-Only-Knows-Why reason it craves peanut butter.

I make my way into the blackness to the kitchen. My old roommate, Gabriel, has taken up residence on our couch until his fancy calls him to some other country. He is one of my best friends, and after living in the same apartment with him for almost five years, I know what happens when I wake him. I tiptoe past.

I bang my foot against one of my husband’s weights. Why is it in the kitchen? I spit a curse, and flick on the light. The peanut butter is still on the counter. It never seems makes it back to the cupboard, but oddly the box of Melba toast has. I go through the ritual gathering: plate, glass, knife (place on table), jar, crackers (place on table). Milk from fridge, pour into glass. Sit. Begin consumption.

I dull groan reaches my ear. Gabriel’s bear-like self ambles in.

“Peanu buddr,” he mumbles.

I try to apologize for waking him, my mouth is stuck. He plunks down on a chair, grabs some crackers and my knife, and helps me go through the jar.

Five minutes later my husband is also here. He is not as animalistic as Gabriel, and is able to speak coherently at this hour. He helps himself to crackers, peanut butter, and then pours milk for himself, and my other man.

I don’t mind. It was not solitude that I was after. The two men make garbled conversation next to me, occasionally reach over and pat my knee, nudge my elbow with theirs. They don’t ask why I’m up, or why I need protein at this hour. They don’t expect me to go to bed soon. They know this small thing about me. They know that it is mine.

An odd comfort comes from this, a woman with a husband and friend on either side of her, allowing her to simply be. A few years ago I realized the great amount of pleasure I get from my male friends. I have female friends, and I love them, but women tend to be needy. When you’re with a woman, and you simply wish to be silent, there is an assumption that you’re angry with her. Men do not do that. Men allow us to be selfish.

There is a wonderful feeling I get from being in the presence of a man who knows everything he is capable of knowing about me. Aware of my womanhood, but seeing me first as a person, as myself, and loving me without work. It is a feeling both liberating and soothing.

An equality and acceptance that women have wanted forever, I have here, at my kitchen table, flanked by two men that love me in different ways.

My husband looks at me, and sees my smile. He smiles back, leans over and gives me a sleepy kiss on the cheek. He then gulps the last of his milk. He rises, brings his glass to the sink, and goes back to our bedroom. In ten seconds he will be sound asleep again. Gabriel is slower to finish. Some of his milk remains in the glass. He ignores it, and gets up.

“I’m goin’ back now, Baby,” he says quietly.

“I’m sorry I woke you.” I can say now that the milk has granted me speech again.

“Mm. I’m not.”

He leaves the room. I can hear the “whumpf” as he flops back on the couch. I pour myself another glass of milk and drink it. I close my eyes. I am aware of how blessed I am.

Then I put the Melba away. Plate, knife, glass (place in sink). I go back to bed.

The peanut butter stays on the table.

Novice is a writer from East Providence, Rhode Island.

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