By Chef jklimerence
Death is a weird fascination. It is a tricky sticky thing that seems to dart down and snatch reality right from under our feet, always when we least expect it, even though we know from the beginning to always expect it.
I, myself, never saw it coming. I chose a career in writing, in structuring entire worlds and divining the future of my characters, but even I could not see death’s lecherous caress, her pale fingers claiming what she desired. It felt as if I’d shut my eyes to fall asleep and opened to them to a world turned upside down and set on fire by some invisible madman. When the bones of my wife finally turned up, I truly did want to drench every last inch of this evil existence with kerosene and set it aflame with my anger.
I didn’t leave my house for nine days after reporting her missing. My parents visited, bringing their familiar stern expressions and pretenses of compassion. (It wasn’t that they were unkind, they just didn’t understand the expressions of emotion and how to feel another’s pain. They had in fact, tolerated Noemi, and that was the most I could ask of them, considering they sneered at all my previous lovers).
My family in law came over as well (all four sisters and five brothers of my wife to express their sorrow) to share the burden of my suffering. Those first two days were the worst; company meant I couldn’t properly mourn. When people were around me, wearing a mask was often easier than being honest.
They insisted on staying at my place longer, but I told them it was too painful for me to be around them. Too many memories walking through my house. I wanted to be alone. And they agreed and got themselves suites at a nearby hotel that I refused to let them pay for. They were my guests, even if they weren’t staying in my home.
After that came the seven days of privacy I desperately needed. My days had become a routine. In the mornings, I made pancakes, always pancakes. They were Noemi’s favorite, and I loved them. The aroma of cooking them reminded me of Sunday mornings where I’d come down and find her dressed only in an apron and a wicked smile. She would cut them into strips for me and layer them with the crispiest slices of bacon. Then, after our brief fiery entanglement against the counter to work up our appetites, we would sit together and eat, both of us glowing with love.
I still set the table for two, but now there were no jokes in between the bites. No exchanges of flirtatious remarks, no shouting, no arguing, no plans were to be made. I sat in a silence so deafening, I almost wished I could conjure up some image of her. I’ve heard that many people saw their beloved or at least deluded themselves into believing so. But I wasn’t stupid. I couldn’t ever settle for something so faux.
I went to work after breakfast. Work, I could always do. Upstairs in my office, I could fall into a trance where my mind wasn’t quite awake but wasn’t quite shut off. Even when she was alive, this was the part of my life where I’d grown to appreciate my time alone. She would go off to the university to teach her classes, and I would haunt the mornings, listening to the birds and the sounds of streetcars and busy people.
It was our spare bedroom that I’d fashioned into an office. It had a balcony for when I wanted to stretch and inhale the city’s essence. And there was even a couch in here for when she wanted to surprise me on the days she’d come home early.
But here, I could concentrate on my words. I plotted idea after idea, painting with sentences what I could not do in any other medium. Here I wrote my fantasies: which gallant knight would slay what ferocious monster. Which beautiful prince would be rescued by the lionhearted heroines I boldly fashioned from my wife’s lively spirit. Stories were beautiful carved things. I felt like a divine madman when I wrote. Even now, after she’d gone.
Now I wrote something else entirely. In these new words, I could feel my wife breathing between the pages. I could feel her skin (still warm and slightly damp from our lengthy embraces). I could still entice her moans with my fingertips and taste her once again on my tongue as I teased her, just to watch her blush and lose all semblance of control.
Oh, if the pillows could talk, they would sing sagas. The walls would tell epics. The windows, the tables, the blanket’s we drenched with our love. All would find voices, a choir for our holy bed-sheet ballet.
For my entire career, I bashed the romance section of every bookstore, every library. I called their authors weak hearted and foolish for writing weak plots just to sell steam. I still believe it to be so (although I’ve grown quite a fondness for writing about the monster with two backs). Why go through all the trouble of building a meaningless story if all you wanted was to explore how the bad boy’s arms were so very strong and the woman yet another doe-eyed yet-to-be-picked flower? Why bother with empty conflict and loose threads when you could instead pull all the threads to unravel her clothes? Then have our overtly manly hero give the buxom love interest a right proper walloping on her gloriously ripe buttocks? It was exhausting to read when all we wanted was the walloping.
I don’t write with such flowery pretense. Desire was desire; it needed not be coated in fifty shades of delusion. I refused to allow societal images and expectations sully the this-worldly desire that ran rampant through my ink. These were mere memories that I recorded. In this book, my Book of Noemi, I’d recorded page after page of our time together. Her luscious brown hair. Her divine set of thighs. Oh god, how I could keep my face between her legs for hours. How her aroma lathered me up into such savagery, such white-hot lechery. So how dare she cheat me? How dare she think that I, her humble, faithful, most devoted servant, could be cast aside like a book swallowed up by time? I loved her. I loved every single inch of her. And if I closed my eyes, I could still taste the sweet supple savor in her summer kissed skin tones.
I scribbled down as many of our dalliances as I could, from our first time to right up until the passion filled night (when I thought the air itself would shatter from our heart-wrenching cries) when my fingers closed around her neck, and I watched the light fade from her beautiful flushed face. It was on the ninth day that I wrote the final chapter for it was on the ninth day that I finished with her.
As I ended my recollections, I wished I hadn’t had to rush. There were so many other sauces I wanted to try. So many styles of cooking. But I settled for frying and grilling and ketchup with the occasional helping of relish or Salsa Verde. Sometimes I made stew. She would have been proud of all the different things I tried.
Noemi loved experimenting when she was alive. She’d fry eggs with mushrooms and stir it with peanut butter. She had a bad habit of putting potato chips on her pizza. Once, she even ordered Japanese takeout just so she could bake the ramen into lasagna. I tasted her odd vibrancy in her flavors, and I lusted for it like an alcoholic’s body is wracked with pain when they go without a drink for too long.
At first, I was attracted to her calves, finding the firm plumpness so delectable, I thought my heart would melt. Even back when we’d dance in bed together, I always found her calves to be special. So it brought extra satisfaction when I could finally close my jaws around them. I wanted to save the best parts, but (partially due to hunger, partially due to desire and jealousy, and partially due to the urgency of ridding myself of evidence) I went after her juicy breasts, the mouthwatering curves of her succulent ribs. The beautiful quivering peach of her bottom. I felt quite alive, much more alive than ever before, as I dined on my most beloved.
When I filed the report of my missing soul mate, I found support from every quiet corner of my contact list. My fandom roared in droves across social media, for the poor humble writer had lost his muse. Even my mother (the cold-hearted woman who’d never urged me into any of my passions, never been impressed by my accomplishments) baked me a pecan pie. I never once saw her bake a single thing when I lived with my parents. It didn’t taste as good as my wife, but I thanked her for the sentiment nonetheless.
Noemi’s skeleton turned up in the creek on the tenth day after she died. All evidence of flesh, of the crime, of our love, picked clean off her hoary bones. When love letters were discovered in her lover’s place (her lover who had vanished on the day of Noemi’s disappearance), the blame had fallen to him. He’d been a professor as well, a doctor of philosophy, but he was never to be found.
They cried with me, my fans and my family. Strangers I’d never met reached out on Twitter to leave me warm thoughts. People bought my books in droves. When I sobbed, when I screamed, people consoled me that she wasn’t worth my tears. That she had not been faithful. But I only wished that there had been more of her for me to enjoy. I wished that she’d never broken my heart. I wanted to grow old with her, for that was the ultimate consumption. The only worthwhile thing in life is to find something you love and let it consume you. And who could have loved her more than I?
I stopped writing after that. People started to forget about my suffering. My friends and family stayed for the funeral, told me to ask if I ever needed anything, and then hurried back to their personal tragedies. Solace and solemn silence took up the vacancies in my life. In the mornings, I stayed in bed and binged on television shows till I could muster enough strength to make breakfast. No more pancakes. No more wild love on the counter. How does one continue when he knows that he’d had his best already?
In the evenings I went out to my backyard and sat on my porch, overlooking the patch of flowers that I had to replant after she died. They were Noemi’s rosemaries, and buried underneath their fragrant home was her truth. I read out loud in those sincere hours of sunset. The purple-red fiery quality of the clouds reminded me of our passion. Even the gentle breeze carried the scent of her sweat-drenched hair, her slick arms still wrapped around me, her bottom still so soft to squeeze in my hands.
I could almost hear her gentle voice shape into a moan whenever I stroked the soft leather cover of the book I had written. It felt reminiscent of when I’d tease her spine, tickling her from her neck to her hamstrings with my tongue. Oh, the sounds she would make when my breath would fall upon her aching secrets. She would beg me to taste her, beg me to release her wickedness. And how her limbs could move, how her back would arch. Even if she wasn’t properly here, even if she’d cheated on me, I still had these moments written down, moments I could relive over and over. She would always be with me, always be a part of me.
I read aloud to the flowers and to the man underneath the flowers. It was my victory, my one true reason to breathe. I could always feel her soft skin now, and he (the man who’d slept with my wife and gotten her pregnant when I could not) would have to lie there and forever listen to my precious memories, my Book of Noemi.