“Noooo! I love it!!! Make it again, that weird rice with the eggs and carrots,” the children cooed as they pranced around their mawmaw’s legs while walking into the kitchen in the morning.
“Yea? Haha.. You liked that, huh?” She softly said as she smiled.
Joan pulled a frying pan from the lower cabinet and washed her hands. She pulled some eggs and carrots from the refrigerator. The rice was sitting on the counter from the night before, perfect rice for fried rice.
Americans like to call it “sticky rice” because they had grown accustomed to products like Uncle Ben’s rice which is processed so that the individual grains don’t stick to one another. This is what as known as simply “rice” in Japan, or “gohan” which happens to be also another word for meal.
Joan liked the sticky rice and was glad the children enjoyed it as well. She felt humored and somewhat worldly using it. Only but a few months prior had she opened herself up to what is known as “sushi” which she had mistaken for raw fish and had thought it disgusting. Turns out, she said, “it’s not so bad” and she could bring this up in conversation with her new daughter in law who is half Japanese, half American. Joan loved to cook and this was something they had in common and often they would watch each other cooking in the kitchen. Joan would make cajun food, and Michelle Japanese. This is when she spied her daughter in law making fried rice.
“Oooo, I always wanted to learn to make that,” she said upon seeing how much her grandchildren loved it. She lived to make her grandchildren smile. It was her heart and soul now. The quilts, the books, the trips to the aquarium, the camping trips, the games, the holding of hands, the secrets whispered in their tiny ears … all for them. She was particularly gifted in making people feel loved. And she made them feel very very loved.
The fried rice seemed to get the children to eat their veggies. You eat your veggies and you’re being healthy. She liked that. And the bonus was, there wasn’t even a struggle. They just ate it all up. The “trick” was particularly fun to her as it tapped into the elementary school teacher in her where she was always pouring honey over the english lessons and charming the children, her students, into learning and having a desire to read and study. She could be sweet like that and quite clever so when she saw this, she wanted to learn.
One morning her daughter in law walked into the kitchen and caught Joan laughing at herself standing over the stove.
“How do you do this?!” she giggled.
Michelle looked into the pan. The rice was coated with egg and the carrots were still crunchy as they do not cook as quickly as egg. The rice was starting to stick to the pan and the soy sauce was beginning to caramelize, stick and smoke. She stirred furiously and turned the fire off laughing the whole time. She didn’t burn it, so she took a taste.
“Well, it tastes ok haha,” she smiled and looked at Michelle who tasted it, smiled and agreed.
“What did you make, Mawmaw?!” Daisy asked.
“Um…. I tried to make fried rice like your mom, but it didn’t turn out so well,” she said with a grinning and giggling with humility, “You want to try it?”
She put some of the rice mixture on plates for Daisy and the boys, her brothers, who looked up with their big eyes and chubby cheeks.
“MMMMMM it’s delicious, Mawmaw!” Daisy affirmed.
Joan never did learn to make fried rice. She just got too many requests for “Eggs and Rice” which is what they called it after that. She would remember to throw the carrots in first so they could soften a bit more and then to coat the rice and carrots with the eggs and just to add salt rather than soy and it seemed to work out just fine. Raven put a little ketchup on it without saying a word and everyone ate up their vegetables. A breakfast with love is never a bad breakfast.
The anger overwhelmed him. He didn’t even know why he was angry. She told him she just wanted to be friends. She even said she wanted the friendship to grow and that she loved him. What did that even mean? He was inside out. The idea of her with anyone else made him crazy. The idea of him without her made him crazy. But he knew he had to let her go. He didn’t even know why it made him crazy. He intellectualized the situation over and over again in his mind and he fully understood the situation. Often he would be fine. He would put it out of his mind as if it weren’t even there and not think of it and he felt normal… great even. Then something would happen and he would imagine her making love to someone else, or even kissing someone else. His cool was gone. His sense was gone. He would go outside his own self and lose himself entirely in madness.
What was this? Why couldn’t he control these emotions? Who was this woman? I mean, was this love? Was it obsession? Most importantly … is there a cure? Funny enough, he now understood the film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. She was in his blood. And he was in hers. He wanted the pain to stop, but that was like trying to fix a ghost limb … it was completely intangible.
Could he trust her that she felt the same way? She said she did. He was so mad, he didn’t trust her. He calmly said his goodnights and he ran. Out the door and down the street. He ran ten, fifteen miles. He just didn’t want or need to stop.
Back to his house, sweaty and endorphin filled, he wandered down to the basement. Half in a daze, he searched for his new towels and t-shirt. He heard a kah-thunk. Wiping the sweat from his face, he looked over his shoulder and saw his old drum kit from high school.
The drum set called to him from the corner. Forget her, it said. Let her go. If you play me, I will make you famous… you will travel the world and you will meet many women and you will see that she is nothing.
Mesmerized by this, he took the towel to his face as he removed the dust cover and sat in the hazy light of the basement enveloped by the kit. His drum sticks lay on the snare just where he left them probably a half a decade ago.
Tat tat… bbbbrrrrrrummm tat tat tat…. he went. It felt so good. His muscled remembered what to do. He was so tired, however, he could barely see straight. He returned the sticks to the snare promising to return in the morning.
The sun came up. It is now 20 years later. He traveled country after country, city after city. He became rich and famous as one of the single most greatest drummers in the world. He poured every single unexplainable emotion into his kit, which was now a very large kit, and gave that to the world. He still thought of her every day, and even though the kit promised him there would be others, which there were, there was no one. He was thankful for the pain which finally was subsiding after so very long.
There was a knock on the door. It was her. Finally, the calm he wanted and waited for. He drew the dust cover over his kit and never played it again…. until…. his little boy asked him, ‘Daddy.. what’s that?” half a decade later.
She loved him with all her heart.
She ran to the fence line and didn’t know what to do. Should she go? Should she turn around? Should she try to talk to her family about this?
The little pig bounced around in her teddy bear back pack, nose and front feet peeking only to tumble back down with every other step. She was only four, but she had the heart and wisdom of a noble warrior. The family was given the pig for Christmas. This was the Serbian orthodoxy, and that was the tradition. Being a little child of only four, Anica only knew one thing: her heart did not want this living creature to be slaughtered for some dinner. What made things worse, the family even named him. How could they name him and plan to eat him. Were the adults all insane? What was wrong with her parents? How could she be related to such murderous and callous people such as this?
She could not understand. She only knew she needed to escape.
The farm property sprawled for acres. The grasses were long near the fence-line. She waded through it to the rickety wood border that some how kept the cows in.
She turned to look back at them. She thought it was good that her evil parents needed to keep them alive for the milk and cheese.
She blew a kiss to them and said a silent prayer in her head for God to watch over them, then turned and ducked between the weatherbeaten rails.
Down the gravel path she walked. When she was a few farm yards away she began talking to the pig. Eventually, to ward off boredom, she began singing little french children’s songs she learned in her music class.
“Don’t worry, Dragi. We will get you safe. I will sing to you to keep your mind off the trouble… Sur le pont d’Avignon… l’on y danse, l’on y danse… Sur le pont d’Avignon.. l’on y danse tout le rond…”
This filled her heart up with a little more happiness and she almost wanted to skip if she thought the little fellow wouldn’t bounce entirely out of her back pack.
She had gotten far enough away by the time the sun began to go down so the adults would not be able to see her and she would not be able to hear them. She decided to sit under a tree for a bit. She knew the town was close now. She pulled a wrapped peanut butter and jam sandwich from her dress pocket and decided she needed to solidify her plan except that she had no plan.
The street light was ensconced by a shape coming her way. By the glow, she thought it might be a holy person or an angel of some sort, but she was still a little afraid. She drew her forearm up to block the glare. Chewing still, sandwich in hand, she called out, “Who’s there?”
The jogger with a curious dog came over and knelt down next to her revealing herself from the shadows.
“Whatcha got here, little one? Are you okay? You lost? You look pretty okay judging by the sandwich,” she said and she smiled.
“Do you eat pigs?” Anica asked.
“Haha. No.. I don’t actually. That’s a strange thing to ask,” said the jogger.
“Well, my family wants to eat little Dragi here and I have to save him,” Anica replied.
“Hmmm… that IS a dilemma,” said the jogger. “I can help. I’m not in the habit of this, but my farm is right there. I’ll give you a lift home and if you like, Dragi can stay with me and you can visit any time you like.”
Author's note: Many of these stories are inspired by real people. Some of them are fiction stories based off of an encounter with a stranger or co worker and I'd often tell them when the story was published. In this case, she had actually come from a Eastern European family and when this happened, well, partially happened, she had indeed heard the word Draga often which was an endearing nickname for darling or sweetie which was what she nicknamed the pig.
The journey and awakening is always unfolding. It is sometimes lonely, sometimes sad and sometimes fortunate. We are fortunate to be able to daydream, to be able to share moments of joy and pleasure and love. This man tapped into something deeper, something she hid from herself.
This part of her was wild and quite uncivilized with fiery eyes. Fiery from her anger. But what was most complicated was the tenderness and subtlety about her. It was always as if she felt there were eggshells all around her that she had to walk gingerly upon. Only then to occasionally satisfy the need to smash a few as a reminder she was still living.
She was afraid, full of fear actually, although no one seemed to know it. Her heart knew too much so she dreamt. She would dream of him: her gentle man. He would wrap his weight around her in warmth. She imagined herself turning to face him and watch her own hands as they would drift up around the nape of his neck and around his ears and onto his face and then he would kiss her.
Now she could be calm. Now her heart felt no pain. Her civility could return with grace. This warmth could carry her through a few barren winters.
She removed his garments in her mind’s eye and felt hers slip down her curves one by one onto the floor. She felt his hand in hers and they would move as one to a nesting place in the bedroom and the lights dimmed. She slept. The night was filled with green tea latte marshmallow kisses and cinnamon cream love and she saw through him. Whereas once he could smile as he killed, he was now distracted, softened somehow. He became like a surgeon who could now feel in his skin the pain and in his mind the fears of his patients. Something had opened him. He was seeking … something … was it the love? The acceptance? The forgiveness for his sometimes crude ways of going about things? He was just a man, after all. Once just a boy.
He walked over to the mirror and looked at a new self. He was a different self than the one he knew just a month ago. The month was over, as his contract was based on just a month, the dog barked, the alarm rang… she awoke. And he in his bed too found himself sitting upright strangely awakened. She hit snooze then contemplated her dream. She reveled in the thought of his love and her body softened as she remembered his touch.
He, now awake and up and dressing, gazed into the mirror. He was different: refreshed, confident, loved, strong…. He considered he might even be a little happy and at peace.
He knew he would have to return. He knew he would have to keep her somehow. What she was, really, was someone who wanted to be loved wholly and forever. And what he was, really, was a man who wanted to be out in the wilderness with her. He thought at times it would be impossible to make it work. What could they do?
She daydreamed of him. So far away, but always with her.