I tell my wife Greta that she won my heart with food. Mutual friends introduced us over bowls full of steaming noodles, spring rolls and Vietnamese iced coffee. I noticed Greta ate quickly—her eating wasn't dignified but urgent, like a quarterback being rushed for third down. Surprised by my allergy to cashews, she waved the waiter over and said to him, "Your menu doesn't say there are cashews in this dish. You've made a terrible mistake. This man could have died!"
The waiter apologized, returning to our table several times during the course of our meal to ask Greta if everything was all right.
My friends drove me home, since I'd recently stopped driving. My interest in the world was shrinking — I sold Amway and would say anything for testimonial effect: "Oh, I don't need a car anymore! I hold my weekly meeting at home and sell the product right at my door!" This so impressed the new guys at the bottom of my pyramid, that I really did stop driving. I willed myself back into the dark ages.
Mike and Anne asked me what I thought of Greta Poon.
"She seems nice and direct. Actually, she's right. I could've died if she hadn't spotted the cashews!"
"What luck!" said Mike and Anne.
"It's love, not luck," I said, not knowing what else to say. Instantly I imagined her face up close to mine. Just the word 'love' conjured Greta's face. "She seems interested in Amway anyway," added.
"Everyone should sell Amway," Anne said. Mike agreed. Anne always said Amway with reverence — a longer breath, a deeper intonation. Mike's pupils dilated right away, I could see his posture stiffen as if at attention. His meandering flow of thought also stiffened, assuming a wild torrent of products and contacts, lifeblood of the Amway family!
I called up Greta that night; the line was busy. I jumped into the shower with this new body-scrub gel, which contained crushed bits of walnut to exfoliate and revitalize the skin. I scrubbed and scrubbed, thinking of Greta in a generous frilled night-gown, gently parted to engulf me in her delicate, almost palliative caress. I called Greta while dripping wet, and she said, "I'm making jello salad!' and I said, "I'd really like to get together with you tonight!' and she said, "Well come on over then!' I confessed that I hadn't the means to get there, so she hung up and twenty minutes later she arrived at my door with her jello salad sloshing around in Tupperware.
"It won't set properly now!" she said, letting me take her coat. Naturally, she wore nothing underneath.
"What'll you do in the morning?" I asked her, putting my arms around her softly rounded back, "Don't you work tomorrow?"
"I'm here to make us supper. I won't need to stay the night!"
She took control of my fridge, stove and microwave. Before long she had cheesy scalloped potatoes, broiled T-bone steak and a caesar salad on the table. I fell into an urge for candlelight, but Greta stopped me. She shut off the kitchen and dining room lights, drew open my window drapes, and let the traffic lights on Bowness Road streak across our dinner and conversation.
"If you'd eaten those cashews!' Greta said, "Well, actually, I would've enjoyed seeing you go into shock. I work in triage and honestly, it's a real high seeing people lose control. I'm good—very good—at saving lives. Then you would've owed me!"
"I'm not good at owing anybody anything!' I said. "I take what's mine and I leave"
Greta sighed at that.
"The only men I can't save!' she whispered, "are the ones who leave!"
Because the food was great—the steak medium, the salad garlicky with just the right punch of anchovy paste—I felt that I had to tell Greta the truth: that sex wasn't the only means of saving me. In fact, the explosive urge to grab her breasts that sent waves of blood up my cock, leaving me light-headed, now drained back to the recesses of my stomach as I ate and ate. It's the smell of cooked blood I love most— the oily brine oozing from juicy marrows. Its knowing that our sole worth is portioned out by the number of steaks we've eaten.
Eating is the only thing I owe myself, and paying that due leaves me debt-free.
"I would've made you congeel' Greta said, "but that takes three hours. Where'd you get that turkey in your fridge?"
"I was at my folks' for thanksgiving. I ate as much of it as I could, but then I had this craving for steak!"
"Sometimes I'll do a whole turkey in the oven just for myself!' said Greta. "I'll eat turkey for three days. Whatever's left over I'll put in a big pot. Two cups of rice, shiitake mushrooms, a bit of dried grapefruit peel, fu jook, black-eyed peas, ginger. That's enough congee to last me a whole week!"
"Mmm. I haven't eaten congee in years. Ever since I left home!" I said. "Of course, every orifice has its orgasm. Mine just happens to be hand-to-mouth!"
In the dark, Greta's face took on the exact jawline of my mother. But only for a moment. Greta still cooked Chinese, whereas I'd forgotten nearly everything Chinese. The only thing that still lured me back home was food. And Greta was no spring chicken. Like me she was probably being pressured by family into getting married. Food is her Camelot, I suddenly realized. She eats life to save life. Everything she does at work— cutting open a throat to slip in an air-tube, fibrillating a failed heart— enforces that instinct. It's maternal. It's the way a baby hangs off its mother's teat. It's the way Greta Poon crowns herself queen for a day, every day. Triage nurse, street angel, Saint Blood'n'Guts. Given the enormity of her cravings, why did she make room for me?
Supposing we made love tonight. Supposing I dumped her by morning and took leave of her kingdom, her recipes and her remedies, pointing my horse and lance elsewhere. Would I soon yearn for Greta's home cooking after exhausting myself in someone else's arms? Would I ask for three days of turkey, then seven days of congee? Maybe I'd come to the conclusion that food is everything, even in love—that you attend the banquets of other tables in candlelight, widening your social palate— only to return to the tastes you know so well.
Was this an addiction to Greta or to my own twisted appetite? I still don't know.
But in the darkness of ourfirst evening, I saw Greta's hand resting softly on the table beside the T-bone. I picked up her arm and started sucking on her fingers. We never looked back after that. I sell more Amway than ever. My colleagues say that my speeches are inspiring, not laid-back. They say that my looks are distinguished, not muted—that finally, I have arrived. As for me and Greta, I drive us around in my theft-proof Camero. We eat turkey and congee with gusto, our senses on fire, and go to bed early so we can get a fresh start on breakfast.