Ordinary Paradise

My body was broken into.

Just after dawn last week, a surgeon and his accomplices tore into layers of skin, and took a joint away, replacing it with hardware. It was consensual. “That joint was pretty ugly,” said the surgeon, happily, as he visited me in my black and white hospital room.

Then, breakfast arrived. I fell upon my boiled egg and tiny croissant as though it was a lavish banquet. The triangular bar above my head became a metronome, counting out the pristine, solitary hours until I could go home.

Food had been a kind of transitional object these past few weeks, before and after the operation. On the eve of my hospital visit, I bicycled to Philosopher’s Walk to meet up with The Poet. She gifted me with spelt bread, like a Ukrainian ritual. There were tarts and lemons and a warm scarf she’d knitted. But the greatest gift was poetry. We took turns standing at the top of a small amphitheatre and declaimed our poems. The memory of that afternoon is a warm, round stone I keep in my pocket.

My friends The Ukulele-Player and The Slavic Femme welcomed me home from the hospital. My bedroom was an exquisitely ordinary paradise, made strange by my prosthetisized body. Pain sparkled down my leg; narcotics filled my head with buzzing clouds. We ordered pizza and had a kind of party in my room. Their faces were so open, meeting me where I was.

Food is a hyphen, a slash, a form of punctuation. Ukulele-Player worries about who will bring me fresh bread and whether there is enough almond butter. Does food stand in for fear? Bakhtin wrote that food connects us to the world – but also to affect, to embodied feeling. Friends bringing barley mushroom soup, biscuits, brie, and apples, are the arteries that connect me back to the beating heart of life.

The days and nights trickle by. Accepting the vulnerability of recovery isn’t always easy. Not being able to cook, or feed people, is a gag order. Who am I without the declarative sentence of a meal?

A Halloween morning brunch begins to restore the balance. My contribution is defrosted croissant. The Anthropologist brings frittata and hot cider. There is a shock of gold leaves, and an uneven patch of blue sky visible through yellowing willow branches. We sit outside in the glimmering Fall afternoon, and eat.

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