Couple Friday nights ago, it’s just the two of us for dinner. Emma working, Peter out with the boys. On my commute home Karry calls, suggests picking up fish sandwiches at one of the Catholic Churches in town. Lenten fish fries in these parts are a religious experience in every sense of the word. I trust her with the order – the menus have no wrong answers – and we coordinate timing for pick-up on my way through town. She calls me back after placing the order, tells me what she got, mentions that she gave the person on the phone license to pick us out two good desserts.
I arrive a few minutes early, a gift, as I get to bask in the aura of a busy, old, church basement. The several-decades-ago tile floor same as the one from my Trinity Church childhood. Young kids, tired of sitting still, are jumping on the stage, seeing how high they can reach on the curtain. The timeless, singular scent, baked in from generations of serving flocks.
The joy of purpose radiant in every person in their role. The olders in the chairs taking orders. The grandmas, moms, dads, sons and daughters in the kitchen, prepping and packing. When it’s time, the expectation in watching the young person bringing you your order. The warmth on your hand under the bottom of the bag as you take the steps back out of the building and back to your car.
Home, we unpack, transfer to plates, liberally baptize our fish, fries and hushpuppies with the requisite Heinz, and claim our usual spots in the living room, she in her dad’s old recliner, me sitting on the couch, closer to the TV.
A perfect recipe for a Friday night.
I’m the first to finish, per usual, and on my way to the kitchen to retrieve my slice of pie (apple for me, peach for her), ask Karry if she’s ready for hers. She opts to wait.
As an aside … while not the biggest dessert person, I am a pie guy. Love the idea of pie. Every slice I’ve ever encountered has brought me some measure of joy. The kind or type doesn’t matter to me, though I do love apple best. By contrast, when it comes to pie, Karry’s much more selective with her affections. Peach, though, checks her boxes.
In the kitchen I liberate the carton of vanilla ice cream from the freezer, add a couple scoops to my plastic container alongside my slice, bring it back to the couch.
Savor the couple seconds of expectation between cutting off the tip of the triangle with my fork and scooping it into my mouth.
Hmmm, I think, as the flavor registers. Not a pure apple taste. Somethin’ else happenin’ here.
Hmmm. Good, for sure, but, yeah … somethin’s a little off. I’m chewing, tryna pick out what it is. Thinking to myself … maybe a special recipe from one of the church grandmas? Or maybe it’s still my lingering post-Covid taste buds, which were rewired along with my sense of smell, making things as disparate as coffee, peanut butter and celery very, very weird. Though most, if not all of it, seems to have finally returned.
Oh well, hey, it’s pie. With vanilla ice cream. It’s good, just … strange.
I roll with it. Take another bite.
I’m about halfway through, when it hits me.
“Oh, this is the peach,” I say aloud.
Me: I think I’m eating your pie.
She: What do you mean?
Me: Yeah … (as my tongue takes a confirming swipe across the piece currently rolling around my mouth) … this is totally peach.
She: (stunned disbelief) Wait, how much have you eaten?
Me: (looks down at the plastic container, sheepishly looks across the room, to where she’s sitting) ‘Bout … half?
She: (scrunches up her face as she stares at me, remains speechless for several seconds, trying to comprehend the vague mystery of my existence and presence on the planet)
Me: Well, I thought it was like cinnamon or something.
Me: Lighting’s not great in here, either.
She calls B.S. on the latter point. I recognize it’s not in my best interest to try to argue.
Although … lighting wasn’t great.
Me: (seconds pass in contemplative silence) Here … (offering my plastic container of Vanilla Ice Cream and Peach Pie Remnant Soup)
She: I can’t believe you ate my peach pie.
Me: (yeah, I totally can’t believe it either … not sure what I was thinkin’ there.) Yeah, I know. You can have my apple.
She: I don’t want apple.
She’s not exactly pissed at me. More like confused and disappointed, as any normal human being would be, I suppose.
Admittedly, across our years together, she is no stranger to these feelings.
In such moments I’ve learned sometimes it’s best not to talk.
I finish off the piece while we’re watching whatever is on. A few minutes later, I go back to the kitchen, toss the empty container.
Open the fridge and grab the slice of apple and return to the couch.
It’s … delicious.
She (glancing in my direction): You’re eating the other slice of pie … now?
She: That’s a lot of pie for you.
Me: Didn’t want it to go to waste.
She: Yeah, wouldn’t want that .…
Me: (experiences tinge of shame while enjoying slice of delicious apple pie)