Ella Woodward with her famous vegan coconut Thai curry with chickpeas
Last week I missed Uki’s birthday. To make up for it, I baked her a cake, a vegan one. It was also sugar-free and wheat-free, made from dinkel flour and it was shockingly good.
There’s a new food blogger I follow. Her name is Ella Woodward. Her blog is ‘Deliciously Ella’. I’ve unearthed all of these marvelous vegan recipes there. I was vegan-vegetarian between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one. Then last week, mysteriously, after my fortieth yoga class, I came home and suddenly decided to try a vegetarian diet all over again.
I started researching vegetarian cooking. I started making mass amounts of vegan recipes: coconut Thai curry with chickpeas, courgette noodles with avocado pesto, experimenting with dairy-free coconut yogurt, chocolate mousses and chia seed puddings. Aside from the cooking frenzy, I continued my hunt for more literary agents and spent my remaining time finishing this Paul Auster novel, ‘Invisible’.
Shona is back from Dubai. She asked me to meet her at our favorite hotel bar. The one we go to before hot yoga. The hotel I like because they always have spare copies of ‘The Financial Times’ in the lobby. I didn’t really know what to wear that day; the weather was fickle. I showed up in a pair of black shorts, black tights and an eggplant-colored pull-over. I put on my beige trench coat just in case it rained. Shona asked me to meet her at four so we might have plenty of time to catch-up before our five-thirty class. When I arrived, she was with a man, medium build, in jeans and a suit coat with a blue scarf tied artfully about his neck. When I extended my hand and said ‘Ich bin Isabell’, I had the feeling I was being set-up. There was something about the mischievous way he smiled at me that threw me slightly off balance. There he stood, looking at me as if he wanted to rope me in. Or rather looking at Shona and me as if we were twins, intimately linked. Which made no sense. Not initially.
Ten minutes after sitting down, things started to come together…
Apparently things had gone wrong, terribly wrong for Shona during her two week romance with the ‘Dubai-Guy’. Boarding the flight back to Hamburg, she met someone else, a man she had known several years back. ‘Johannes’ had, coincidentally, just been in Dubai to take his teenage son swimming in the Persian Gulf. Shortly before my arrival, Shona had been talking to him about how much she wants a second child. Their children are roughly the same age. Each of them are divorced.
Shona, at nearly forty, she (not unlike me) fears she is running out of time. Our biological clocks are like time bombs threatening to go off in the distance. Johannes is fifty-one. She says she likes him. He’s intelligent, and a successful businessman. In other words, he is resourceful. He is very healthy. He doesn’t smoke and rarely drinks. There are no major debilitating diseases in his family. (She asked.) He works out and special orders this very pure green tea from some mountainous region of China which sells for eight hundred euro per kilo. He has a house on the seaside which she says is beautiful and an apartment in the city. He wants to have a second child, before he is too old to actually enjoy a second child. The two of them were negotiating the specifics of a potential ‘arrangement’ before I arrived at their table.
How shall we do this? I can come to your house once a week for the next month…
Or, he said, sliding his empty wine glass across the table, I can just give it to you in something like this.
Shona told him she preferred to try the wine glass method first.
She excitedly detailed all of this to me as we hurriedly made our way to the yoga studio. Each time we go to yoga class and she spots a pregnant woman, she insists we move our mats to stand on opposite sides of her, whispering she hopes whatever this woman has will rub off on us. I tell her catching a pregnancy, like one might catch a common cold, is biologically impossible. She laughs.
Back to Johannes. She’s waxing on and on about him. Uh-huh, I nod. Then, seeing her fixed determination, I secretly wonder if he has any like-minded friends he might introduce me to.
Breathless, Shona continues.
He said I would have full custody rights of the child. He’s even willing to map it out with his lawyer beforehand.
I told him I want to move to Mozambique and launch my own organic herb farm.
He says he could always fly in for visits to see the child…
At this point, I feel utterly overwhelmed. The details of this plan are growing increasingly sketchy but the writer in me can’t help being intrigued. So I encourage the slightly zany turn of an already madcap conversation. Then I suddenly understand the very pointed question Johannes directed at me moments into our tea.
Do you have children, he inquired and with a smile.
Would you like one?
I would love one, I said, and then felt too trustful and hence uneasy, shocked by my forthright answer to a near stranger.
Back to Shona.
Are you sure you don’t want to try for a real relationship first? Then I remember she tried that in Dubai with the ‘Dubai-Guy’. Despite liking one another and wanting the same things, i.e., a ‘serious’ relationship, children, after several weeks texting and talking on the phone, after a couple of weeks in Dubai together, it was obvious, they would not be compatible in the long-term. Not enough common feeling, not enough electricity, not the meeting of the minds (and too hearts) she had hoped for. There wasn’t that indescribable quality of sizzling mental and physical attraction, and deep playful affection (so important) and mutual understanding that magnetizes two people and spurs them to want to be together in the long-term.
You know the feeling, have you ever had it, the sense that you can just read someone? And you just want to keep reading them because it feels good and somehow unexpectedly you feel you just sort of want them in your life, no matter how irrational that prospect may be? It’s instinct. Far beyond reason. But you know if you fail to follow that instinct you simply won’t be happy.
You’re changed by them. But in the best of ways. You look at things differently now and you like the way you feel about them and the thoughts you have about them and you don’t want to go back to the way things were before them. And you never thought that would be possible…
Is it chemical?
A combination of both?
Whatever Shona and the ‘Dubai-Guy’ had was temporary. Cajoling her over cups of bitter green tea, I say, well, you never know how it will work out with the next one…
Before I know it, we’re both sprawled out on the floor of the yoga studio, sweaty and exhausted.