I want comfort. I boil three potatoes in their skins, mash one with the back of a fork, drizzle it with good olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. I crawl back into bed.
I'm home sick for the second time in two weeks, and I'm homesick for a distant memory:
Nono (Italian for grandpa) feeds my Jack-o-lantern-mouthed brother from a steaming bowl. He blows on each spoonful of potato before offering the bite. Anthony gums it down and opens for more. Sometimes Nono tests. Twice, after I beg, he feeds me too.
It's been eight years since Nono died and many more since he weaned Anthony. But the flakey potato tastes exactly like I remember. A lot has happened to to me in between those bites. There have been many times when I wanted comfort. Many times when I've retreated to bed with something that will fill me up or numb me out.
I've gone to bed with a glass of wine at the end of a long work day. Against the recommendation of most any dentist, I never bother to brush my teeth before falling asleep. I also hid a giant bar of cooking chocolate in my underwear drawer while I was studying in Spain. I would peel back the foil at night and gnaw on it. Once a wayward chip melted into my sheet. I tried cleaning it up with tissues and toothpaste, but my host had a keen eye. When I got home from school, the spotless sheet was drying on the line between apartment buildings.
It feels good to be cared for — to be spoon fed or have someone else do the laundry. Others have taught me the pleasure of clean sheets. But the lesson is now mine.
I go to the kitchen and mash another potato.