For what it’s worth, I’m going to lay the blame on the bookcase in his room.
I was over his apartment for the first time, had only just dropped my bag and handed over the dessert items which only just barely managed to survive the ride on the G train (strawberries and heavy cream to top them with), when I saw it. It didn’t particularly catch my eye at first, as I was too distracted by the 1950s-era tiles in the kitchen and the haphazard, thrilling manner in which various utensils were cluttered on shelves near the window. I would very nearly have passed it over, if he had not breathlessly – we had just canvassed the four flights to his apartment at lightning speed – suggested a grand tour of the place.
The bookcase is one of those floor-to-ceiling numbers that spans the length of a wall and within which is contained more than simply books. Pull a volume out, thumb through the marginalia, and almost immediately the pursuits of a particular soul are revealed to you. These pursuits shift with time, and thus it was that Hemingway bumped up against Chaucer, and James Joyce shared space with Herman Melville. I ran my fingers over the gently-used spines, commenting on his choices, ribbing him and congratulating him as I tried to grapple with the implications of encountering so expansive a collection displayed so lovingly.
There is just something about a man who is well-read and who takes pride in this fact. There is just something about this man, too.
The most compelling reads, however, were on the bottom shelf. These were the cookbooks.
In the space of several moments, we found ourselves seated on the floor, a coffee-table volume splayed between us, musing about the recipe choices and the photography, the ingeniousness of Thomas Keller and the spirit of The French Laundry imbued in the span of three hundred pages. Shoulders pressed together, thighs touching, heads bent in the liquid afternoon sun spilling through the curtains in the kitchen, conversation filling the space between us like soap suds – bubbling up, glittering and delicate, each thought popping to make way for another to expand.
Later, I would tell him that one of the things I like most about him is that I can really talk to him.
The truth is this: The more I talk to him, the more I want to talk to him, and this is a feeling I have not had in quite some time. This feeling that the words will not be exhausted no matter how far we follow them, that there will always be something new to discover, some other volume to open, some other page to thumb.
And that’s worth a whole, whole lot.