The hard click seemed to echo through my body, vibrating slightly in the pit of my stomach. It came suddenly, after my softly said goodbye, the responding good luck Molly and the cold weight of the phone to my ear suddenly surprised me with its heaviness. I sat broodingly on the couch, my braced left knee perched on a vibrantly pink pillow in front of me. I stared out the nearby window, watching the wind jostle the course of the darkening rain storm, the beginning of the holiday weekend’s bad weather. The familiar rhythm of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue enveloped the pattering rain with its lilting jazz, an unavoidable melding of sound that matched my loudly confused state of mind.
I was tossed from my mood of quiet thinking by the piercing whistle of the phone again. My Mom.
Well Mom, it’s official. I sighed overdramatically, feeling quite bad for myself.
What? she asked, the phone crackling in the background.
I am officially not going to culinary school in December. I almost shouted; saying it out loud made it final, a change that I knew was coming but never expected to be real. I’m just somehow surprised that this is all happening.
It’ll be ok, Molly. Of course she’s right; mothers are always right.
And later, as I continued my avid watch of the windy wet weather, a bulky copy of E.M. Forster’s Howards End balanced precariously on my knee, my thoughts leapt unavoidably around the CIA. It had taken me a few weeks to call them, so hesitant to admit the truth, that I would not be ready to go to culinary school by my official starting date in early December. I'm slowly mending from my physical injuries. My disturbing loss of smell (resulting in my frustratingly muffled sense of taste) is also reasserting itself in painstakingly lethargic dawdle. I can’t in all reality go to the CIA until I am myself again. I found myself surprised, stunned, that the call was so easy to make. I expected turmoil and trouble; I expected this call to reflect the past six weeks of difficultly and frustration. But I changed my entrance date in less than five minutes, listening half heartedly to the cheerful reassurances of the breathy voiced admissions officer.
Alright Molly, you are officially now going to begin your culinary associate’s degree in May, 2006. Thank you for calling.
As I cradled the phone on my shoulder, writing down my new information in thick black ink in my journal, I imagined the scene on the other end of the line. The efficient admissions secretary was perched on a thickly cushioned desk chair, a black phone headset angled over and around wildly frizzy blond hair, her mouth splayed into a wide friendly smile, the computer humming and the blinking red lights of her active phone subtly shining a reflection onto the window of her office. And nearby, close to that mystery woman who entered the data of a life change I was not ready to make, were knife-set bearing, white chef garbed culinary students going about their daily life.
Damn I’m sad, I thought, attempting to rearrange thoughts of my future, this year, in my head.
But as I sat, momentarily depressed on the long cushioned couch, I eventually had to let out the creeping urge to smile a bit. I am getting through this; I will be better; culinary school will come. A change of schedule, no matter how difficult or surprising, in this world is nothing to be permanently worked up about. And the sound of rain really is beautiful.
It is hard to admit, but there is a part of me that is relieved. I do very much want to begin my culinary education. But at the same time, this accident has scrambled up my thoughts on everything that I was so sure I ‘knew’ before. Right now, I am not ready to follow any kind of plan. I’m not ready to jump off of any sort of cliff of decision. I will take it slowly; I will write my way through it all. Despite the plans and urgings of many friends and family, I just have no idea what I’m going to do.
I stayed in my father’s house in New Hampshire after my surgery for a few weeks of recovery. He has never been a pronounced foodie, by any means. (He did, however, give me my genetic and profound love of mustard. I give him credit for that.) But he announced to me one day, a smile playing on his lips almost masked by his mustache and beard, a new ‘award winning’ idea.
Molly, you will be…The Tasteless Gourmet! Can you just see it now? You will bee looking at food in such a different way, totally original! No taste, no smell, but everything else! You will make it big! I rolled my eyes, not wanting to think about my lack of smell relating to any kind of life plan.
But Dad, my taste and smell are coming back. I don’t know how well that would work, really…
But he just smiled, excited by the prospect. And I laughed, thinking how strange it would be if that plan was a success, somewhere in a strangely mottled dream world.
And the other day – in one of my frequent long distance discussions with Becca (none of them ever having to do with celebrity gossip at all, of course) – we talked about my options.
Just start cooking, Molly. You can make up recipes according to your strange new taste buds. And then I’ll come visit and be your tasting judge.
I heartily accepted her offer, amused by the possibilities of my newfound food habits (lacking a strong sense of smell gives me a very new and surprising, albeit very muted, palette). Alright, I’ve got it - you know how I love salsa, Becca, now that one of the only things I can completely taste is spicy things. And of course I still love ice cream, no matter how much I can taste beyond the sugar. I think we’ll have to start this recipe creation session with some salsa ice cream. Giggling to myself at the prospect, knowing the horror on her face.
Oh, ok, fine. Fun. No problem. And I promise I’ll even smile after I taste it, no matter what I think or how much I want to throw up.
I have wonderful friends and family. That is what it all really comes down to.