Eric saw an in, and took it. "That was good, honey." I sighed my agreement.
"Real good. And there wasn't even any meat in it." (Eric is a sensitive twenty-first-century sort of guy, but a Texan nevertheless, and the idea of a dinner without animal flesh gets him a little panicky.)
"You're such a good cook, Julie. Maybe you should go to culinary school."
I'd started cooking in college, basically to keep Eric in my thrall. In the years since, though, the whole thing had blown a little out of proportion. I don't know if Eric felt pride that he had introduced me to my consuming passion, or guilt that my urge to satisfy his innocent liking for escargot and rhubarb had metastasized into an unhealthy obsession. Whatever the reason, this thing about cooking school had developed into one of our habitual dead-end alleys of conversation. I was too deliciously idle after my soup to get ticked off about it, and just snorted quietly. Even that indication that he had my ear, though, was a tactical error. I knew it as soon as I'd made a sound. I squeezed my eyes shut, feigning sudden sleep or deafness.
"Seriously. You could go to the Culinary Institute! We could move out to the Hudson Valley, and you could just spend all your time learning to be a chef."
And then, no sooner than I'd cautioned myself against it, I made tactical error #2: "They won't let me in without professional experience. I'd have to go peel potatoes for two-fifty an hour for six months. You want to support me with all your big bucks while I do that?"
Giving in to the enticing prospect of emasculating my husband. Always, always a mistake.
"Maybe some other school to start, then - somewhere here in the city?"
"We can't afford it."
Eric didn't answer. He sat quietly on the edge of the couch with his hand on my shin. I thought about kicking it off, but the shin seemed a neutral enough spot. One of the cats jumped up onto my chest, sniffed my breath, then stalked off stiff-legged, her mouth open in faint disgust.
"If I wanted to learn to cook, I'd just cook my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking." It was an odd sort of statement to make drip with sarcasm, but I managed it anyway. Eric just sat there.
"Not that it would do me any good, of course. Can't get a job out of that." "At least we'd eat good for a while."
Now I was the one who said nothing for a moment, because of course he was right about that.
"I'd be exhausted all the time. I'd get fat. We'd have to eat brains. And eggs. I don't eat eggs, Eric. You know I don't eat eggs." "No. You don't." "It's a stupid idea."
Eric said nothing for a while. Buffy had ended and the news was on - a correspondent was standing on a flooded street in Sheepshead Bay, saying something about a broken water main. We sat on the couch in our stuffy Bay Ridge living room, staring at the screen as if we gave a damn. All around us teetered towers of boxes, the looming reminder of our upcoming move.
When I look back on it now, it is as if I could actually hear the taut creak of a fisherman giving out just a tiny bit of line when Eric said: "You could start a blog."
I cut my eyes over to him in irritation, a massive white-skinned shark thrashing its tail.
"Julie. You do know what a blog is, don't you?" Of course I didn't know what a blog was. It was August of 2002. Nobody knew about blogs, except for a few guys like Eric who spend their days using company computers to pursue the zeitgeist. No issue of domestic or international policy was too big, no pop-culture backwater too obscure; from the War on Terror to Fear Factor, it was all one big, beautiful sliding scale for Eric. "You know, like a Web site sort of thing. Only it's easy. You don't have to know anything about anything."
Copyright © 2005 by Julie Powell
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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