I’ve come to believe that if we can’t be other people, we can be better people.
…I am no longer young, no longer drunk, no longer reckless. After Paul, I knew I would never marry again and I haven’t. Like silence, marriage is not what I do best. I stop at Le Girelier, the waterfront cafe where Paul and I had our first lunch in the town where we ran out of hope. I order the same meal: soupe de poisson, extra rouille, please, and think about something I recently read. The author, whose name I can’t recall, said soup and fish explain half the emotions in life. I can’t figure out if this is right or just cute. It is true that on more than one occasion a lunch of fish and soup – or fish soup – has sparked a fearsome lust, and isn’t lust an emotion, if one of the less applauded? Although I had not understood it at the time, I now think the decision to quit the marriage – to quit all marriage? – …was made here in France, …probably after a lunch of fish soup. I lost parts of me in that marriage. Some important bits were buried here in St.-Tropez, but the losses were mostly of my own making, the result of an alcohol-informed arrogance, which assured me that, with determination and one more drink, I could fix everything, the world would dance to my tune, and we would all be people we were not.
But there is this: I’ve come to believe that if we can’t be other people, we can be be better people. Crushed dreams, broken promises, lost loves, and unhappy endings needn’t leave us hard. They leave us human. Human is always better. I raise my water glass to the memory of that young woman and her solid, basic instincts, which she kept hidden from even from herself for so long.
In case you were wondering, rouille is a creamy, garlicky garnish often served with fish or fish soup (soupe de poisson.) Rouille is a Mediterranean treat. It is to Provence in the South of France, what allioli is to Eastern Spain. If you like garlic, you will like allioli, but you may love rouille, with or without an accompaniment – or accomplice.
I’ve never tried to fuel determination with alcohol. In my case, the intoxicant has been passion, selfish close cousin of love, a fierce determination that says if I simply care enough and try enough I can fix anything. The thing is, determination can be broken. Not everything is fixable, and some things belong to others: one person’s fixing is another’s codependent meddling. To truly love is to truly accept both the passion and the unpolished, in one’s self and others. I do better with garlic – it’s resolute, passionate, uncompromisingly itself, yet also versatile and welcoming if loved and explored.