I woke up refreshed. Eight solid hours of sleep. My head didn’t suffer, but my social life did. Being a hermit was easy; getting over heartbreak was not. I wanted to make rugelach. A simple pastry loaded with edible treasures. I had the time and I had the ingredients, I just needed the motivation. But I was distracted. I knew Burton was at home. I emailed something silly just to plant a seed. I was so needy and so pathetic. If only I had self-control. And this was me sober. Cringe. Whatever I wrote worked. It started out innocently and then I launched into some desperate essay about, you know, sex. As I’ve mentioned, the downside to sex between us was that it was perfect. But that’s all it took: 5 days of silence + 3 hours of dirty emails= 2 hours of amazing sex. It’s interesting because this formula works for sex, but there’s no magic formula for love; either it’s there or it’s not.
It took me 20 minutes to walk in the wet snow to his house. There were huge flakes that could find an eyelash for a platform and then melt within seconds making a mess of the most meticulously crafted eye makeup. When I arrived, I was a wet blob. But he thought I was beautiful.
This was the first time I’d seen him in an angsty week, but it was surprisingly easy. Though this was a soul-crushing visit, he greeted me with a knee-buckling kiss. His lips were exactly what I needed. After a long walk with a small bladder, I used the restroom. As I went in, he offered me a drink, “Do you want red wine or Jameson?”
“Jameson,” I called to him.
“Neat or rocks?”
His bathroom was disgusting. Overall, he wasn’t a messy person, he just didn’t sweep or scrub or mop and he didn’t seem to own a chest of drawers, though his pile of clothes indicated he could use one. There were also remnants of hairballs from his cat all over the apartment, but his bathroom was the most disgusting room in the place. The bath mat was covered in cat hair, there was a ring around the toilet bowl and the toilet seat made a wet squishy sound every time I sat on it. But the filth took a backseat to the other things I encountered in the bathroom. I didn’t snoop as a rule, but since he pointed out weeks ago that her tampons were there, I looked for them. And they were still there. There was also a hairbrush that I hadn’t noticed before, but it was clearly a woman’s hairbrush. I slouched on the toilet thinking ‘He doesn’t *want* to get over it.’
I ignored what I found and joined him on the couch. With music playing, we sat and talked for awhile. The conversation wasn’t at all what I had expected. He dove right into the stuff that made me completely and profoundly sad; I pretended not to be. He talked about an email I sent that thanked him for realizing I shouldn’t settle for anyone who doesn’t make me swoon. It was painful to hear my words being said back to me. There wasn’t much I could say except that those few days were really hard for me and that I knew I shouldn’t see him or be there at that moment because it hurt, but I was there because he inspired me. I deflected and asked him what we were listening to.
“Lovage. It’s a collaborative work from Nathaniel Merriweather, Mike Patton and Jennifer Charles,” he said. “It’s called ‘Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By’ and it’s one of the greatest albums of all time.” To non-cooks it sounded like sappy band name, but lovage is just an herb slightly similar celery leaves with a bold flavor. Nothing romantic about it.
Burton then pointed to his computer which had a playlist up of the songs I’d sent him. I looked at it only seeing the cover of Bright Eyes’ “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning.” I said, “That’s a great album. I would call that one of my favorites of all time.” Condescendingly, he said, “That’s not an album, it’s a playlist. I know you think I don’t listen to what you send me, but it’s an amazing playlist.”
There were only four songs on it (all heartbreaking) and two were from the Shins — ‘Gone for Good’ (letting go of love past its expiration date) and ‘Kissing the Lipless’ (You say you’re over me, but you’re not). The other two were “Landlocked Blues” from Bright Eyes (debilitatingly painful — we love each other, but we’re better off apart) and “This Modern Love” from Bloc Party (‘this modern love wastes me,’ need I say more?). Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’ deserved to be on it, but he apparently ignored that email. Or maybe it hit just a little too close to home. “I listen to it constantly,” he said and then he kissed me. One of those kisses that makes your shoulders fall from attention and makes your neck wobbly. We made our way into the bedroom. I will spare the details about how the orgasm he gave me left me so exhausted I could barely lift myself from the bed. It was epic.
When we dressed, we resumed our positions on the couch and talked more. I asked him if he liked R. Kelly. This opened an entertaining can of worms. We watched “Real Talk” and witnessed R. Kelly’s relationship devolve over the phone in real time to music. Hilarious. That led to watching other 90s hip hop — Tupac and Ice Cube — which wasn’t something I was interested in at all, but I opened my mind and Ice Cube was right, the day was a good day.
Work was hanging over his head, but we kept watching ridiculous videos. Then a text came in for him. I couldn’t help myself. I looked over. I saw more than I needed to. It was her name. I freaked out. Internally, of course, because I was incapable of having a real life fit. I saved my fits for the internet or text messages. Still not showing my craziness, he said, “OK. It’s five o’clock. I have to get back to work.”
I didn’t have a whole lot of time to let it fester, but what time I had created pure bile. “I get it. I understand. I’m not an idiot,” I said and got up, swinging my scarf around my neck.
“What? What’s wrong? I’m sorry, you know I have to work.”
“That’s not what I’m upset about. And I’m not even allowed to be upset about it.” “What are you talking about?” “I know I’m not supposed to look,” I said, making a reference to his rule about not checking a mate’s phone. “But I saw the text that came in.”
“Oh. It was about her cat. I don’t have control over who texts me. And I didn’t respond.” He was normal and kind and everything I would want from a boyfriend who had just ended a relationship with someone else. Except that he wasn’t my boyfriend.
“Listen,” he said. “You are the only sex that I know right now and have been for the last two months. Even this last week.” He said this as he walked into the bathroom. It wasn’t sex that I was upset about. I didn’t know if I cared if he’d had sex with someone else in the week that we were apart; I hadn’t thought about it. I was upset because he wasn’t trying to get over his last girlfriend. They were still in contact. They were still in each others’ lives. The woman standing in the way of my happiness was still texting him.
When he left the bathroom I asked him, “Can I do something?” “What?” “Can I throw away her tampons and her hairbrush? I know we’re not seeing each other anymore, but that those things are still here make me think that you don’t want to get over it. ”
“I’m supposed to be in San Francisco. Last year, my transfer papers were signed and ready to go and I put it all on hold for her. So what I’m dealing with is just where MY LIFE is supposed to be.” He consoled me and it worked. He told me he would take care of the stuff in the bathroom. We made out a little more and I left.
With mixed emotions, I stopped at the grocery store and bought a 1.75L bottle of Jameson and went home. I started the rugelach as I poured a glass of Jameson to drink as I baked. I rolled out the cold dough with the little strength that wasn’t sapped by the afternoon’s revelation. As I layered the chocolate, cranberries, walnuts, and coconuts generously, the whiskey washed through me and made me sway with sadness. It wasn’t going to turn out the way I wanted it to. I rolled up the dough with filling spilling out of the edges, brushed the top with egg wash, sprinkled it with sugar before slicing and baking it. I sat and waited to see how it would all come together. I was overeager. It was overstuffed with all that I loved. I always wanted too much even when I knew it wasn’t right.
I made a second attempt with temperance. I cut out the coconut and cranberries and added a little more patience. The result was perfect and balanced; all it took was a little self-restraint.
Filling: Directions: In a food processor, pulse together the butter, cream cheese, flour, and salt until it’s crumbly. Dump it all in a plastic bag and form a ball. Refrigerate for an hour. Roll out the dough into a rectangle (between each turn, press the edge of the dough with the side of your hand so the edges are straight). The dough should be about ⅛ of an inch thick and a foot wide. Brush it with the melted butter. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle evenly on the dough. Sprinkle a layer of nuts followed by the chocolate and coconut. With the wide edge, roll the dough up to create a dough cylinder. Press down the ends. Place in the freezer for a half hour. Preheat the oven to 400℉. Beat a tablespoon of water with the egg to make the egg wash. When the rugelach is cold, brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle it with the sugar. Slice into 1” pieces and, maintaining the cylinder shape, place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silpat so it’s still a long tube with no space between each piece. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes and the top is golden brown.
Directions: In a food processor, pulse together the butter, cream cheese, flour, and salt until it’s crumbly. Dump it all in a plastic bag and form a ball. Refrigerate for an hour. Roll out the dough into a rectangle (between each turn, press the edge of the dough with the side of your hand so the edges are straight). The dough should be about ⅛ of an inch thick and a foot wide. Brush it with the melted butter. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle evenly on the dough. Sprinkle a layer of nuts followed by the chocolate and coconut. With the wide edge, roll the dough up to create a dough cylinder. Press down the ends. Place in the freezer for a half hour. Preheat the oven to 400℉. Beat a tablespoon of water with the egg to make the egg wash. When the rugelach is cold, brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle it with the sugar. Slice into 1” pieces and, maintaining the cylinder shape, place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silpat so it’s still a long tube with no space between each piece. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes and the top is golden brown.