I’d been in Emergency for 5 hours. I was coming down from the happy drugs they’d given me. i was weepy, and hungry. I begged the grim-faced ER nurse for a sandwich. She said no. Something about waiting for x-rays.
A half-hour later, for no good reason, she changed her mind. A wan hot dog bun filled with Kraft cheese slice appeared in front of me. Prison food.
I. Cannot. Eat. This. I’m. Sorry. I said to Nurse Ratchett. She gasped at my impudence and tossed it into the garbage. But then rummaged around in her secret stash of edible food and found me tuna salad on whole wheat. No doubt she feared mutiny. I scarfed it down and began to feel like myself again.
An hour later I was on the streetcar, my arm in a huge white plaster cast, still woozy, headed home. I’d be in that cast at least a month. I figured I might as well get used to taking public transit as a one-armed gal.
It was rush hour, standing room only. A man with a boyish face and messy grey hair, also standing, sighed with great emotion. In. My. Country. he said, People. Would. See. A. Woman. Like. You. And. Wake. Up.
I looked around nervously.
In. My. Country. Someone. Would. Give. You. Their. Seat. He glared haughtily at all the seated people, who suddenly found really interesting things to stare at out the window. I looked at my arm, hanging woodenly by my side, and realized he was trying to help.
We exchanged smiles. I’m. OK. I’m. Fine. I said. I was channelling all the noble or slightly crazy injured heroines of 40’s/50’s Hollywood cinema. Johnny Belinda, or Magnificent Obsession.
He got off at Ossington, but before he did, he turned to me and said grandly, proudly, sadly:
I. Am. From. Cuba.
Still every bit the plucky heroine, I managed to pick up some basic food items at the corner grocery. Mushrooms, salad greens, milk and eggs.
My mother’s perogies and cabbage rolls, sitting in the freezer since they were sent home with me at Christmas-time, were waiting for me. As they sizzled in a pan, I made a simple mushroom sauce. Wine, cream,chicken stock, and mushrooms, of course. They were chopped roughly. I’m still getting the hang of cooking with one hand.
Mushroom sauce is what my mother determinedly cooked up when she was sick. Maybe I was channeling some of her courage, too.
It was the most delicious meal. I thought about my mom as I ate. How she’s taught me chutzpah and resourcefulness in the face of adversity.
How I’d have to tell my ma we couldn’t go to Cuba in February as planned. How badly I’d wanted to take of her on that trip, show her a good time and most of all, spend time together.
How my mom was taking care of me, with her food, across the miles.
How food becomes a story you tell yourself, if you live alone – like singing in the shower, one part bravado, one part glorious independence, one part survival.