Jerked awake by a nervous pup’s bark, I quickly packed up my stuff so I could make it to Marty’s for our scheduled run. I pedaled down Milwaukee Avenue in pursuit of fixings for the salad I wanted to experiment with. As I sailed down the hipster thoroughfare, I did a double take when I saw a familiar helmeted head gliding in the opposite direction. It was a boy that I used to date. We ran into each other fairly frequently — sometimes we’d stop and chat; sometimes we just waved. The last time I’d seen him was in February and I told him that I quit drinking again.
The best way to describe my history with Chris was that it was icky. We met just as I started my long descent towards my bottom. I was a beast to him — not that he was completely innocent of any wrongdoing, but he was always very forgiving of my drunk, selfish and nutty antics. He had definitely been the unlucky person to witness me at my very worst. Each time I saw him I felt both shame for my bad behavior, and comfort knowing he was able to overlook it. I suspected he was aware that had a problem with alcohol long before I did. On our second date, I remember ordering drinks and I asked the server for a taste of some refreshing chilled white wine. I didn’t like it and ordered something else, but the remnants of the taste were still in the glass so I drank it. “You don’t have to drink it, you know,” he told me. I replied with, “I don’t want it to go to waste.” I got shitfaced that night and crashed my bike into a curb.
The shame didn’t stop me from flagging him down, and the comfort brought me an unfamiliar joy as we chatted in the street. We both had just enough time on our hands to get a coffee and lounge on the Boulevard. Wearing an unflattering tank top that accentuated my muffin top, a skirt that was pilling and stinky shoes, I hesitated to spend too much time in his line of sight, but I didn’t need to impress him and acquiesced.
We had a pretty even exchange of news: He told me about his new baby and that his job as an English professor was picking up. I told him I was training for the marathon and that I was still sober.
“I was always impressed with how much you could drink,” he said, which felt like a knife in the heart, reminding me of how many times I’d made a fool of myself in front of him. “I don’t have the same problem as you do,” he twisted the knife. “I don’t get wasted or anything; my trouble is with frequency.”
“I don’t think that’s alcoholism,” I said. “When I start drinking, I can’t stop until I black out.”
“Yeah. I know. I’ve seen that happen many times,” he concurred. “Are you going to meetings?”
“Nah,” I said. “I probably should be.” I neglected to tell him about Marty and that Marty made it easy not to drink.
We exchanged ideas for bike rides to take over the summer. He made me jealous with plans to see Neutral Milk Hotel in the fall. I detailed all the cooking I’d been doing and that, with the school year winding down, I was going to start experimenting with salad.
“What?” I asked, prepared not to be impressed.
“Shallots,” he said, very satisfied.
“No garlic?” I asked.
I made a mental note to buy shallots when I went to the grocery store.
Salad with a Secret Salad Dressing
- 3 leaves Swiss Chard, torn into pieces with stalks cut into large dice
- 1 very big handful of baby spinach
- ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup Gorgonzola cut into small pieces
- ¼ cup walnut pieces
- ¼ cup craisins
- 2 vine ripened tomatoes cut into large pieces (about 8 each)
- 3 TB red wine vinaigrette***
***Red wine vinaigrette
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tb granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp oregano
Combine all ingredients and toss. Serves two as a meal, or four as a side.
I served this salad to Marty after our run. He loved it.