I didn’t know enough to entirely clean out the closet. But I knew enough to have Russ & Daughters ready and waiting. Specifically: 1/3 pound of Wild Western smoked salmon, ½ lb of plain cream cheese, ¼ lb salmon and whitefish salad, four whole wheat bagels, one quart freshly squeezed orange juice, one red onion.
I had never lived with a man I was in a relationship with before. In fact the only men I had ever lived with ever were: my dad, a wonderfully named boy at college called Edward Harris Brownfield III who sublet our extra room, and boys in my dorms in Madison and London. Hardly co-habitating in the classic sense.
And yet, early in the morning of November 1, 2005, here was Rob. After two years of cross country LA to NY back and forth, he was moving in with me, to my bland, sad, apartment on 7th street and Avenue C. And he was cranky. After all, after packing all his stuff into a cube truck with no lift, he had taken the red eye all the way across the continent, to live with me. All he wanted to do was put some of his stuff away and get comfortable, but there was definitely crap in the closet, like maybe a couple of old shoes, and some weird random papers on a shelf that I didn’t want to throw away from some reason. There may even have been a cat in there. In fact, it’s likely there was, and that was even more infuriating because he would like for his clothes to at least have one safe place, just one!, from her static cling fur. And the worst part was, he couldn’t just go to sleep, and let me fix this beginner mistake of mine, because soon some men were coming to deliver a new mattress, our new mattress, and take the old one.
So, I did what any nice Jewish girl from a suburb of New York would do under such stressful circumstances. I got bagels. Or rather, I made sure there were bagels when he got there. I’m sure I got them the day before.
Russ & Daughters was a ritual with us. One of our first. When we met, two years earlier, I was living in a real dump on the fifth floor of a walk up Rivington Street. I loved that place though- it felt like an aerie. The idea of “foraging” had come up in conversation somehow, very early on, me spinning on about how I loved to get bagels and lox (lox in the Nova sense, ok?), and how lucky that Russ & Daughters, generally agreed upon to be the best lox/appetizing place in the whole world, was only a few blocks away, and him saying that he would definitely go out and get it, while I stayed warm at home. It was the sort of conversation you have at the beginning of a relationship, when you believe you will do all sorts of things together, but then reality sets in and you never do. It’s like in When Harry Met Sally, when Sally talks about jetting to Europe for the weekend or having sex on the kitchen floor. But it turns out you never do, because the kitchen floor is cold hard Mexican tile.
But with Rob, it was different. One chilly winter morning, when he was in town for a visit, not long after that first conversation, he did it. He actually did it. “I’ll go out and forage for us.” He said. “Really?” “Yes!” He was eager. It was about nine degrees out. And so, with a list I wrote up in his hand, he went. I felt guilty, all warm and tucked in bed in the bedroom that was the same size as the bed. But also thrilled. I had a boyfriend and he foraged! For me! In an eon and no time at all, he was back, with that handsome blue and white bag held triumphantly.
I can’t remember how we settled on Wild Western, as opposed to the many other kinds of smoked salmon, but I can guess. We are both fish nerds, and he probably got it that day, wanting wild and not farmed salmon. As he ate that first morning, he smiled. Rob is not a lover of lox, but the mild Wild Western converted him. He left and still leaves the whitefish-salmon salad to me. That morning was salty, fatty, bagels and lox and fresh cream cheese bliss. We ate and ate and watched TV and slept and I can’t remember what else, or maybe I don’t want to say, but it was cozy as hell.
And now here he was, two years later, home for good with me. No more teary goodbyes at airports or subway stations or in my apartment. No taking a minute to get to know each other again after a month apart (more my problem than his.) We could go to the movies all the time, have cocktails on a Tuesday, never worry about leaving each other. At the end of every day, we’d come home to each other. We were together for as long as life allowed us. Even though he was cranky that I didn’t clean out the closet, he was happy with the forage. And so he sat at the sad wooden ice cream parlor table I had, and ate a bagel with Wild Western and drank some orange juice, and soon we were laughing. Now, we can forage for each other any time we want.