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Living together less than nine months, and now this...
Well, here I am. This, I never could have imagined. Living with her, Gaywynn. You know how they say that life is full of surprises. That life is unpredictable. That life never turns out like you thought it would. That’s a cliché, I know. I don’t even pay attention to it when someone says it. Well, I do now. Because it surely is. Unpredictable, I mean. I’m living in a small old house that’s highly in need of care in the middle of Cajun country about 2 ½ hours west of New Orleans with a woman I love who I never set eyes upon until I was 73.
Last night, we made a dish from a cookbook titled, Jerusalem. We enjoy cooking together. Like many of the recipes in the cookbook, it’s singular, exotic, I-never-thought-of-anything-like-that-before, kind of dish. Roasted eggplant with fried onion and chopped lemon.
At one point, we were required to sauté four sliced onions—that’s a lot of onion—over high heat for about ten minutes and then add cumin powder and chopped green chili. When we added the ingredients to the hissing, darkening onions, a great cloud of white smoke slammed our faces and filled the kitchen. It made us start coughing, the smoke itching and burning our lungs. We opened the back door to air the kitchen out. Not enough. The acrid smoke was leaping into our lungs, unrelenting. Nothing to do but flee. We turned off the heat and ran out of the kitchen, then out the front door, hacking away, plopping down on the front porch chairs, gasping fresh air—and laughing. WTF? What happened?
“Couple Killed Making Eggplant Dish,” I said in a New York Times voice.
Gaywynn laughed. I did, too.
“Police found Gaywynn Menard and Richard Goodman sprawled on their kitchen floor, dead, with no visible signs of foul play,” I continued. “Later, the coroner declared, ‘Cause of death: Eggplant.’”
“What caused that smoking?” Gaywynn said, trying to figure out the origin of our insane coughing.
“The cumin? The green chilies?” I wondered.
Neither of us had any idea, but we both found the thought of dying from an eggplant dish to be indescribably funny. Think of it. How would the obituary read? How would your friends and relatives explain this? Laughing was the best part of the whole scenario.
I used to make Gaywynn laugh at almost anything I said. Especially the first few months we were living together. Ok, many of my jokes—not all, mind you— were what are often called Dad Jokes. You know, bad puns, or jokes with tortured punch lines. I thought they were clever. Very funny. Example:
Me: “What’s an Italian dog that’s always hungry?”
Gaywynn: “I don’t know. Tell me.”
Me: “A ciao hound.”
Since those early months, she’s grown accustomed—jaded, perhaps might be the more accurate word—by many of my trying-hard jokes. In fact, recently she began responding with a Buster Keaton deadpan look followed by a fake laugh.
“But…but…you always loved my jokes!” I said once.
Gaywynn shrugged. I’ve had to up my game. She’s become merciless. I guess things change in a relationship, even humor.
However, an interesting thing happened the other day. We were sitting at the kitchen table. I’m still processing this, actually. I had something that was on my mind. I said to Gaywynn,
“Can we be frank here?”
“Can’t we be Bob instead?” she said.
It took me a second to realize what she’d actually said. Yes, she did say that.
“That was a good one, wasn’t it?” she said.
She looked at me expectantly.
“You’re becoming me,” I said. “Do you realize that?”
“No, really, that was funny, wasn’t it?”