Letter to Jim in Syria
Coral decorates our table. From whom? From where? Hand-made candles. But from where? There’s a material life some of us inherit, asparagus simmered in butter, turnip heart, gold fingerlings pulled from the ground and scrubbed in a tub of water. Whenever I wear a mask, it eats my face. The conversation around me, at our table in this restaurant angling for a Michelin star, feels like the least earthy thing. Nothing is sacred. Nothing in our murmurs about members of Congress, streaming services, or Friday sails in the bay. Here comes my dish of mushrooms with a flaky fillet of eel, my bowl of rice, and bread so spongy it reminds me of flesh. Here comes our server pouring wine. In our party tonight there’s a very successful lawyer. Another is some kind of coder. Under the table I Google osso buco: veal shank with marrow stewed in white wine, with carrots and chopped herbs. Since we like them young, we eat veal. I chew on that for a while and think of you sitting in my suit, my seat. If you were here, Jim—here—what would you do?