Bar Raval

Trying to enjoy the mystery

This morning I happened upon my Google history from last night:

How many calories in sleeve saltine crackers?
How many calories in saltines with chedder [sic] butter?
Harry Dean Stanton Straight Story
David Lynch quote ‘sit back and enjoy the mystery’

Pablo Escobar Narcos actor

I had to work late (I use “work” here loosely. See below.)

And when I got home at 11:00 p.m., I found the Beast reclining on the couch in leisurewear looking dewy, like maybe he had a fever, watching the DVD bonus features for the film Falling Down.

Beast: Please never leave me home alone again.

Foodie: What is happening here?

Beast: I ate too much A&W.

Foodie: How much?

Beast: An order of French fries, onion rings, chicken strips, and two teen burgers.

Foodie: I think that’s why you look so glossy right now. Your body is sweating it out.

Beast: I also drank half a bottle of Cremant.

Foodie: Do you want to talk about anything?

Beast: I also had half a cucumber.

Foodie: [Silence]

Beast: Have you thought about what sort of present you’d bring to Brad Pitt, if you ever got to meet him?

Foodie: That’s a good question. Maybe something homemade? A Corbusier monograph? [Pause] Have you thought about it?

Beast: A pashmina.

Foodie: How long have you been waiting to tell me this joke?

Beast: All night.

Foodie: Oh good news! I calculated if I’ll have my period when we go to Crete in October and guess what?

Beast: You will?

Foodie: No! I won’t! Not at all! That is, if my period is regular.

Beast: Thank goddess!

I grabbed crackers, cheese, and butter from the kitchen, poured myself a Keg-sized glass of rosé, and joined the Beast on the couch where we started Season 3 of Narcos. The Beast had his head in my lap, which made it very difficult to prepare each cracker. Worse, he kept asking me to prepare him crackers with the toppings, which was very annoying because I’d purposefully sliced off a single portion of cheddar.

Foodie: How can you still be hungry?

Beast: Stop shaming me! I’m in a dark place.

It’s been a long, odd summer: Family stuff (both sides), agent stuff (him! It’s so exciting! But also waiting to hear back from publishers week after week induces a great deal of anxiety!) We’ve both been very restless. Come to think of it, I think I’ve been restless on and off for over a year now; it’s a feeling of never being quite comfortable where I am; of only having a sense of calm dreaming about vacations; of having some internal itch that I just can not scratch.

In an attempt to find some sort of inner calm and satisfaction, this has resulted in sporadic behaviour.

Last Sunday at around 9:00 p.m., seconds after I’d seen a Smitten Kitchen Instagram on how to make Shake Shack burgers at home, I rode my bike to Sobey’s–the only place open in the neighbourhood– to get some ground beef.

They were sold out. So we stuck with our original late-night dinner plan of salami sandwiches. But we were still able to prepare the oven-roasted French fries that I’d seen in the burger photo.

Let me tell you, those fries were revelatory.

In an attempt to remedy a bout of melancholy on Labour Day weekend, we rode our bikes to Bar Raval. I’ve been there several times, but the Beast hasn’t.

We drank rosé cava, and ate croquetas, shishito peppers, smoked mackerel, peas and artichokes, and bread smeared with sweet tomatoes. 

Foodie: Do you ever feel like you’ve run out of things to say? Or that everything that comes out of your mouth has been said before?

Beast : It breaks my heart when you talk like this. But I also understand it.

Foodie: I know you do. But when you get like this, you never bring me down. You manage to turn your darkness into humour, which brings me joy.

Beast: My texting game has been very, very strong lately.

After our snack, I felt less anxious. We rode home with the wind at our backs and the sun, when it peaked through the clouds, warming us from the chill in the air.

At home, we sat in the sun room and read our books while sipping on cocktails of Capo Capo with a splash of grapefruit sparkling water (delicious.)

Beast: You know that you can talk to me about anything, right?

Foodie: Of course I do. I think I’m just having a hard time doing the work to figure out exactly what it is that I’d like to say. Does that make sense?

Beast: Yes, it does.

Foodie: The last time I saw a therapist was in my 20s, when the weight of my parents’ separation hit me, but the therapist had…

Beast: The therapist had braces, so you had a hard time concentrating.

Foodie: Oh I see I’ve told you that one before. And it just proves my point: I have nothing to say, or nothing new to say, or nothing worth saying, and I’m sick of my own voice. Is this what writer’s block is?

Writing the Metro column, as stressful as it was, forced me to find something to say week to week. But late in May, on account of some restructuring, they cut my word count, and my fee. Writing fewer words isn’t actually easier. So we parted ways. I was disappointed, but it worked out, oddly, in the end: Russ, my mom’s partner, died a few weeks later, and nearly every weekend–the time I’d normally dedicate to the column–we’ve been driving to London. Wrapping up Russ’ estate has been relatively easy compared to her sister’s, my Aunt Sandy, who died in February. My mom is the executor of both their wills –of the two people to whom she was closest, save for me and my brother, right now. And here I am, with a little free time on my hands, overwhelmed with teenage-like ennui, listening to Father John Misty and Brian Eno. Only I’m not a teenager. Shouldn’t I know who I am by now?

It was magic hour in the sun room, where we kept reading and sipping our cocktails. The trees were blowing–is there any sound more beautiful?–and I smelled that distinct, yet hard-to-put-your-finger-on scent of Autumn. I thought about how excited I used to get this time of year–the weekend before going back to school. And I thought about the first day of Grade 7, when, as usual, I wore a dress that my mom bought for me from K-Mart, where she worked part time. It was grey with white polka dots. I matched it with a pair of grey deck shoes, which I wore with white socks pulled up to my knees. When I got to my new school, all my friends were outfitted in designer sweatshirts, Polo shirts, cuffed jeans, and Bass Weejuns penny loafers. Why hadn’t anyone told me? The week before, we’d still been playing with Barbies together, and riding our bikes down dirt roads. They’d grown up over night, and I hadn’t.

After gym class that day, I heard a girl in the change room make fun of what I wore. The following weekend, my mom bought me a Polo shirt, and a Roots sweatshirt and a pair of penny loafers. I became one of them.

I thought about that version of me with some regret, and wondered what would’ve happened if I’d kept on dressing like Eleven from Stranger Things and didn’t give a fuck.

But “what if” is a silly game to play. So I sat back, with some heaviness in my chest (although it felt less like anxiety and more like unchartered territory, waiting to be removed, turned over, and examined), and decided to enjoy the mystery of it all.