An Unlikely Dough-mance
At the end of my first five months in gay ol’ New York City, among encounters with men of all shapes and sizes (heh), with razor blade lips and high-fashion pouts, with glistening eyes and affectionate brows; after inviting into my home countless opportunities for romance and profound mutual discovery, I have reached this ultimate conclusion: I’m better off with bread.
My restless Monday (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday?) evenings with empty shot glasses and the lofty arrogance of personal politics always lead to the same question: how am I ever going to fall in that perfect pit of love with a man who feels the same, and when am I going to get laid, G-d damn it?! (Liquor loosens the lips.)
So I stumble, liquid, into the trite realization that love is private, unique, personal, and ultimately, a one-sided endeavor. What solace could there possibly be in this realization, you might wonder? That my love is a warm, malleable mess that I have the power to put into anything I please! I can fall in love with my Fleetwood Mac record, my needlepoint portraiture, my Tuesday nights on the couch with my newfound Netflix account. Love will live wherever I leave it, and I’ve left mine to leaven in a loaf of sourdough.
Right now, it’s a simple concoction of complex carbohydrates sitting on my countertop. A little lukewarm water and a little bit of flour form a beautiful pair. In up to my elbows, I formed it for myself, turned it in my hands until it was smooth, and left it to ferment. My little, sludgy friend is taking on a life of its own. Natural bacteria in the flour are now mating and multiplying—there’s an orgiastic microcosm in this little bowl.
Now, why the hell am I in love with this? This stinky schlop is the starter for a loaf of sourdough. Once it starts to smell like the inside of a piss-filled beer bottle, it needs feeding. I’ll fill it with more flour and water—and rid it of its excess—in the same delicate routine every morning until I’m ready to act. One teensy tablespoon will make it into the final loaf.
Like a helpless little monster, this bowl of gruel needs me to survive. But it’s not an exasperating dependency. He provides for me as well: companionship on a dreary Sunday morning (what else can make me laugh as heartily as sneaking a peak beneath his raggedy blue towel!), a sense of urgency to return home at the end of the workday (I hope he hasn’t toppled out of his bowl!), and when the time comes, a smell like a crackly harvest morning filling my kitchen while I recline in bed with a book.
I may sound like a crazy person—and I am, to be sure—but there’s still something to be learned from this. Romance and beauty should be fostered wherever they can be claimed. Sure, there’s nothing in a loaf of bread like the clasp of a lover’s hand (though the uplifting aroma may parallel that mystifying cologne which always goes straight to my head), but there is certainly romance. There is romance in any private act of creation and discovery. And it is profound, it is beautiful, and it is my own; and I am blissfully, unabashedly, foolishly in love with a loaf of bread.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.