We had sex in the morning when we woke up. Most couples can’t do that, but we never had anywhere to be right away, and that’s how we started our days. If Patrick knew I started this by saying that, he would have laughed, I hope.
What do you say about someone like Patrick? Someone with whom you shared that bed? A home? Ostensibly, a life? I’ve thought about this a lot over the last four days, and even standing here, I’m still not sure what to say. My stomach seems to have a lot to say. Talking was never that important to Patrick, so my profession aside, I find a dissonance in coming up here and trying to honor him in words. He always said words were mine, not his. The only thing we ever talked intensely about was what was fair in life. And what was not. I guess that’s kind of ironic.
I think you can all blame it on me that we never got married, even after five years. I never felt a need to be. I am not one of those New Yorkers against the institution of marriage, the business of love. It works for most people, and I always imagined it would work for Patrick and me together, but it seemed unnatural to disrupt the flow of what was working all along. I guess it’s funny in retrospect, if you can even use the word “funny” on a day like this. I’m sorry if that was important to you.
But Patrick and I went through a lot together. Foremost, he saw me through the death of my own parents. And he saw death, too, in the collapsing of his livelihood when his restaurant burned down. We'd barely started dating at the time, so I wasn't quite sure what happened because he refused to talk about it. I think he always liked that I was separate from it—he always saw me as marking a different period in his life, one dissociated from the fire. Even now; hell, after today, the only details I still know are the ones that narrate a picturesque movie storyline, which he related on nights when he became nostalgic. The only nights I ever saw something close to tears in his eyes. I guess I don’t find it that strange that none of you have talked about it, but it’s important to mention it. It was the only evening he’d been out of the restaurant in months, having taken the time for “mental health”—Mrs. Leahey, your words, he told me—I never heard him use them once other than that. At three a.m., he’d gotten the phone call while awake at his computer—he’d had trouble sleeping that night—and by three forty-five when he finally got there, not even a menu was spared. That’s how he described it to me the first time. Once Patrick started to talk about the ashes, he shut down and there was no way to pull him out. It had been his big risk—a risk that his gut told him a twenty-seven-year-old chef shouldn’t have taken—but for once in his life, he’d ignored the voices of reason and followed his dream, the only thing he could ever see himself doing. He’d taken out the loans, hired the staff, and his brothers had flown three-thousand miles from Dublin to restore the gorgeous woodwork of the space with their bare hands. Money is still owed on it all, but the staff and the carvings are gone, existing only in pictures I’ll find in weeks when I have the strength to start packing up the boxes. Though I used to live two train stops from Smith Street when we met, he used to ask me to deny entirely the existence of Carroll Gardens. The Patrick I knew took very few risks, but I don’t imagine I could blame him.
Most of you know me, and know I have sold several hundred thousand copies of my books. Three novels in five years, and now a collection of short stories a couple of weeks away from release. I am hailed as all sorts of things in all sorts of publications, and people can’t get enough of reconnecting with me. Often, there were days and nights where I wonder if my success—if it's not audacious to call it that—intimidated Patrick. Or even the success of his parents, the fact that we lived in one of the units in their apartment buildings to help take the pressure off of our careers—I wondered if the success around him made him live constantly on the defensive, as if he was being reviewed in the Times by every pair of eyes that scaled him, every person who heard the story of his restaurant. I hope he knew it wasn’t like that. Patrick, it wasn’t like that.
He left the house around four or five, and didn’t walk through the door again sometimes until two in the morning. I contoured my sleeping schedule around his, and there were nights when I wished I could leave the classes I teach—something I took on to fill the obvious void when he was working—and sneak away to glimpse at him in his white chef’s jacket through the kitchen’s back window. I know his kitchen is downstairs and has no back window, but in my daydreams it certainly did, and it was certainly the perfect height for me to look through while I, not even five feet, stood on my tippy toes.
Patrick hated when I showed up unannounced when he was on shift. In his kind of restaurant, “unannounced” is a difficult thing, anyway, but most of the management there knows me so if there was a chance they could sneak me in, they did. And when Patrick heard that I showed up, he came out from the kitchen for a very brief moment, covered in sweat. His hands shook a little.
I liked it best when he cooked at home, when I came in from a meeting with my agent or the publishers or a magazine and there was something simmering in a pot or lurching out of a pan. When the two of us sat down to dinner in the apartment, our apartment, I could see it in his eyes that he wanted to strip down the walls and rebuild them with income from a place that was solely his own. Like every bite he took proved more and more that he could do it again, and that bad luck was nothing more than bad luck. And after we ate and we could barely keep our hands off of each other long enough to digest dinner, we slept together and I knew from the way he touched me, from the way he grabbed me and held me and took control of me that he knew he could do it. But when we woke up in the morning, the sex was different, and by the time he left for the kitchen in the late afternoon, everything about him had changed. I just wanted to tell you who he was. He kissed the crown of my head while I curled and uncurled my fists over a keyboard, and exited without another word.
I know he was so quiet around so many of you, but he was immensely different with me, I promise. And I know because around me he hinted at rekindling what burned inside of him. It was the definitive way that I have come to understand just how much he loved me.
I was bad when I was home alone and missed him more than I’d like to admit. He kept a journal that he believed I didn’t know about, and when the bed was noticeably cooler because of his absence, I reached for the small book and couldn’t tear my eyes from his handwriting. Here. This is it. It’s probably the first time it’s ever seen daylight. When he wasn’t there, I read through all of his ideas and plans—all of the things he would have liked to do if fear weren’t an issue. He was an artist at his core, and his sketches of interiors, mock-ups of menus, even the language he used to describe the textures of fabrics and tastes of dishes—they still steal the breath from my chest. I’m looking down at the paper in front of me, and I have some of his words down here, but I’ve scratched them out. I don’t think it’s fair to him to read aloud. He never wanted that. But you’ll just have to trust me, because I saw the recipes he dreamt up—things you'd never imagine in your wildest dreams but that read like beautiful, untarnished logic and poetry—down on secret paper, and ached for them to come alive in our kitchen. But even then I knew enough about him, about the hushed dreamer that occasionally peeked out for air, and I knew he thought the minute his ideas went to paper, he had gotten them out of his system enough that the didn’t need to feel the weight of inaction upon him; it was like by writing them down, he was a step closer to realizing them than he was, and that baby step was enough to quell the desire to confront the risk. Fear did the rest. He made a lot of promises to himself with vague words like “should,” “some day,” and “as soon as.” But I watched the weight pull him down, and I know this because he carefully labeled the entries with dates and time stamps, and I correlated them to when I saw him at his most sullen. I’m glad none of you saw that. I'm not sure what he would have done if he knew I read the notebook, but he never hid it terribly well, so I suppose he would have only had himself to blame. At times I wonder if he hadn’t hidden it well on purpose, and it’s one question I wish I’d had the gall to ask him.
I have grown up, and grown into seeing through his eyes, understanding the silent cues of his inaction. Even when we had moments during which we weren’t on the same page, his kindness and life's natural ebb and flow would calm us back to center. We might have sat in separate rooms, but we never shut the door between the bedroom and dining area, and soon the tide brought us back into equilibrium; he quietly pulled up a chair across the table from me, or I crawled into bed next to him. Usually, we said nothing but touched our toes beneath the table or the blankets. The issues didn’t always find resolutions, but our physical closeness offered perspective that they probably mattered less than we thought. I loved him deeply, authentically.
Patrick. For the last few evenings when the sun has set over the river in a particular way, illuminating everything on its banks and casting a golden glow that adheres to all corners of the bedroom windows, I swear the light spills onto the sheets in a way I can still see his outline. And even when it will rain and the sunset gets muddled, or when the seasons will augment the patterns of luminosity against our building, I will just have to trust that Patrick’s shape is still there, and that even though he won’t come home, there is some part of him that fits into it perfectly. And as the silhouette fades over time, I know it never changes, because I can still reach out to where we touched our toes together beneath the covers.
About The Writer
Meredith Turits was born in New York, and spent most of her youth riding the 6 train in and out of the East Village. She is a writer and editor whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, The Squawk Back, Anobium, Full Stop, Bookslut, Glamour, The Nervous Breakdown, and more. Meredith can be found in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and at suchsmallhands.com & @meredithturits.