Some people excel at the arts. I excel at the table.
Place mats, centerpieces, candles, tablecloths. You’d think I’d be a better homemaker, but what I do well is merely what looks well.
I don’t mean to trivialize it. I can make Thanksgiving feel orange, red, creams and muted browns. I can make it feel ancient. Out of a good book, the best part in the book. I can set the bowls of acorns and the buckeyes in deep brandy glasses with the dried limes and oranges which are whole but cut with slits on the sides so the scent mixes in with deep wine I serve, the parmesan potatoes, mushroom caps, garlic in the butter. The gravy boat will anchor the table, full of rich seasoned harbor. Cassandra Wilson low and roughly singing while the bay leaf wreath floats somewhere above the entrance to the room. They join and hold their own. I can set a mood. Give my guests a reprieve. Their days long and ravenous, ruined and full of compromise. They repeating: One More Day. Just One More Day.
On a normal day, my husband comes home and I clean the tub. Lay out the paper next to the blue chair, the one just for company. I listen, repeat back his failed hopes in a new light. I feed, clean and marvel at him. I dust the rotten day off his good suit and air it in the basement. The bedroom light on, the book open a few pages before he left it, half asleep days ago, he’ll avoid feeling lost. I coo at the dog. Tell her “Daddy’s home!” and she dances her singular dance, the beautiful beast of her, brown eyes glowing, in her most stunning way. She is everything we are not. Natural. Gorgeous. In sync. The food, the drink, the affair on him. I let sit.
Just like his car, softly ticking in the cold garage, its heat adjusting, dissipating.