At Words' End
"That's the funny thing about spur of the moment plans, they always seem to work out better than the best laid out ones," B whispers as we walk into my brother's living room.
"I agree with you one hundred percent there. And there's no need to whisper. My brother sleeps like a log."
"Doesn't he have to wake up early tomorrow?"
I nod, offering her a place to sit. "He'll be sore for missing you," I reply. "We'll have to do a bigger dinner before you go, in fact..." My words trail off, as I start to make some plans of my own.
"What is it you're thinking?"
"Well I was planning to cook a dinner for some guests soon."
"Isn't it too cold for a barbecue?"
"I was thinking of a proper dinner."
"You cook!" B looks aghast. "You mean you-in-the-kitchen-using-a-cooker-cook? When did that happen?"
I give a small grin, and resist the urge to stick out my tongue, as it would be a poor imitation when B does it so much better. "Yes, I've been trying to teach myself the art now that Mum is not here to spoil me. I love good food, so I should learn to at least cook it and put my food where my mouth is, so to speak."
"Why does the saying An old dog and new tricks spring to mind?"
"No one is ever too old to learn new skills. I mean I know all about ingredients and nutrition from my well-being interests, but I thought it was time to put all that theory into practice. What better way than to experiment on friends?"
"Experiment being the operative word. And experiments can go horribly wrong."
"Wow B, thank you so much for the support! You've never tasted anything I've cooked so how can you know?"
"Mister, I've never tasted because you can't cook! And I don't knock you for it, you have a spectacular mum and have been too busy to ever learn. Learning is one thing, but a dinner party is hard work."
"A basic tenet of teaching or learning is what we hear we forget, what we see we remember, and what we do we understand. If I don't do, then I won't ever learn properly."
"But a dinner party is like jumping in at the deep end."
"You think I'm overreaching myself?"
B nods her head with a vigour that I find overwhelming cute for some unfathomable reason. I fold my hands in mock despair. "Then what do you suggest?"
"Who is coming to this dinner?"
"Well Saïd is coming over-"
B breaks out in a large smile. "He's in England?"
"No, he will be coming with his family for a few days."
"When? Why? Explain! Explain!"
I take a deep breath. "Well, he wasn't happy in the Republic of Cyprus and went to Turkey, and has settled down well. He didn't want to come here to apply for residence as he has a little house, garden and a small child on the way, but I invited him over for Christmas with his new family. It took all my powers of persuasion to just get him to accept to come over for a few days and for the British government to let him."
"Hmmm, so he's really taken to Turkey, then?"
"Well, not so much as never to want to go back home one day, but he is content for now."
"At least he's got it right!"
"I think it's a religion thing, he likes to be able to hear the sound of the call to prayer. Religion is dead to my ear when I don't hear the sound of my faith, he says. That man is the real poet. I have missed hearing his expressive talk."
"That settles it then. I will cook the dinner for the party!"
"B you're a great cook, but come as a guest instead, because I can't possibly ask you to do that."
"That's all right then. Because you're not asking me, I'm telling you!"
"How about we take the third option?"
"We cook it together?"
B gives a look that tells me she doesn't like the sound of a novice getting in between her feet, and she says so in no uncertain terms, "I'm not letting you learn on my watch buddy. I have my reputation at stake. You just tell me what you had in mind, and I tell you what I'll be doing."
"Well a simple three course meal, with each course having its own story I could tell over dinner."
"Such as? Any thoughts?"
"Well yes, I have been thinking about it. I thought I'd try my Mum's winter chicken soup for starters or salmon pastries, and that Scottish roast recipe for the main course-"
"Yes, you know the one."
"What's the story behind that one?" B scoffs, "I stole her recipe and her heart?"
I sidetrack her comment. "But I haven't got as far as dessert or drinks."
"We'll make it a cocktail party, start the dinner late and talk through the night."
"B, Saïd is teetotal," I remind her.
"Yes, but we're not. And we need to get him to see the other side of life. Besides we can do non-alcoholic drinks, too. Leave it to me. I'll make the plans tonight and go over some recipes with a health twist as I know you'll appreciate that. We can meet for breakfast tomorrow and go over them."
We look at each other for a moment, and the sudden silence speaks of words more laden with meaning than any we've used all evening. She gives me a light peck on my right cheek. "It's time I was going. I'll call you tomorrow morning. Oh, and don't forget to call your Mum!"
I smile. "I thought you were going to call me tomorrow?"
She gives me punch on the arm. "Funny, Mister! Very funny! You're lucky your brother is asleep! Be ready in the morning!"
Suddenly a phrase from Joseph Campbell enters my mind: The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are...
...And who you love, I thought, and who, come what may, loves you.
I pick up the phone and dial a fourteen digit number. I wait for the click of connection and listen to the line ring.
I smile at the sound of the soft, familiar voice who answers the call. "Hello, Mum," I say.