Tuesday, April 22

A Bowl of Profiteroles

verb [gerund or present participle: missing]
— 4b. feel regret of sadness at no longer being able to enjoy the presence of.

THE PROFITEROLES WERE starting to sweat. They had been made—and subsequently criticized—by their chef on Saturday morning and on Monday, when she was packing some food for me to take away, my mother said—‘Oh, shit, I forgot to put them in the fridge. They should be okay. Don’t worry … they might give you a dicky tummy, but they won’t kill you.’ I don’t like profiteroles, but I took them nonetheless. Indeed when I came to consume them, on Tuesday night, they had sweated considerably and did not taste very good—at the least, I don’t like profiteroles—but I ate them, and then I scraped the bowl with my teaspoon and ate all that was on there, too. There were nine profiteroles; four of them were eaten tonight, the remaining five shall be eaten tomorrow. Ten minutes after the first lot, while I lay there reading, I grew ill and nauseous.
My family are the most important thing to me, I believe, with a conviction out of reach to Catholics. My family are spooned, with cream, into the hollow profiterole pastry. The cream is yellow around its edge; the cream has yellowed. Returning home for the long Easter weekend, rather than finding constant, unrelenting warmth, I found only the most terrible of sadnesses. It would be unfair of me, having eaten the profiteroles, to declare the whole weekend a misery, because I occasionally broke free and enjoyed moments of joy, but so fate would have it that I should suffer, and I know not why.
She presented me with an ashtray; a blonde in a red bikini was sat atop the Las Vegas sign, and ‘Nevada’ was written underneath in such red letters; a gift from their recent holiday, as well as an original piece of art painted on a block of wood the size of a pack of cigarettes.
‘Are you okay?’
‘Yes … why do you ask?’
‘Just wondered. You look a little miserable.’
‘I’m not.’
Lately I have been imagining that everyone is miserable. My youngest brother, on the cusp of his twenty-third birthday, was nothing short of miserable and occupied the house like a ghost who is not quite sure it wishes to haunt any longer. Often times he would disappear altogether, or, which I found most unsettling, collapse on the sofa facedown for long periods of time. In him I see myself, some years ago, when I realised, as though it were the smell of fresh bread from an opened oven, that life is a dull, pointless exercise and all the wonders of youth are dead, only to be replaced by the terrors of adulthood and its adopted pleasures.
I pull at my stubble all day, trying to pull out hairs, until I go to the mirror and, with a pair of tweezers, remove them forcibly and accurately. It soothes me to see the little strands between my fingers and how they vary so in thickness.
‘He’s sad because his brothers aren’t at home anymore and he’s stuck with us.’
When I said good-bye to them both, I walked away and wept. I was in the middle of a courtyard, walking across it; a fresh rain was beginning to fall and the water in the pond was lifting a little, the wind was carrying itself up and away; the people who were lying on the grass started to move inside. I wiped my tears away before I got back to my flat. I had been excavated from the family I held so dear, the family that told me I was still a part of them though I am apart from them. Being in their house and not belonging; living here and not belonging; nowhere is a place with magnolia walls.
Tonight they all went out for dinner to celebrate my brother’s twenty-third birthday. I was not there. Maybe I was mentioned, or perhaps even discussed—if I should be so modest—but a place was not set for me nor my dirty plate removed by a waiter. Instead I ate alone, examining the meal in front of me, leftovers from Easter Sunday dinner and somewhat dimmer than it had been back then. I thought of texting my mother—‘I miss you guys!’ but put my phone on the floor and got on to the sofa.

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