Recipe For A Man

“So.” Anne looks at me.

“So,” I agree.

Four eyes blink rapidly to avoid welling up and over. We hate goodbyes. I make a mental note to move D.C. to Illinois when I return home. Anne knocks my foot with her shoe. One Converse taps one purple heel, careful not to scuff it. I stare down at my heel and smile. I can hear my mother’s voice telling me that I drive in utterly insensible shoes.

“Call me when you get to Boston.” Anne shifts from hip to hip, and nudges my shoulder with hers.

“I will,” I reply and do my best to look sincere.

“And give that guy a chance.” She tells me.

I roll my eyes and stick out my tongue. “Yes, mom,” I say, in a sing-song voice.

“Really, you need to hurry up and find the guy already. You know, before you get all saggy and wrinkled. Come on, get married and make babies!” Anne gestures wildly with her arms, and then waggles a finger at me.

“Oy, what are you, my mother?”  

“No, but really, Caroline. It’s your turn now.” She hugs me and we slide arms companionably behind our backs as we watch Ben, who is loading my car for me. We squeeze each other tighter.

“Maybe you’ll meet a wealthy farmer on Prince Edward Island.”

“Mmhm,” I nod my head, “a wealthy farmer who reads books – ones without pictures.”

“Oo! Oh!” Anne squeals, “A farmer who became a doctor, who built his own house, and has a vinyl collection that rivals your dad’s!”

Anne cocks her head and I can see she is making me my own gingerbread man. I decide to play along.

“His grammar and spelling are perfect. He has a voluminous vocabulary! But he’s not some pompous asshole.”

Anne nods and lists off more items. “At night, he watches Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. He’s as liberal as you are.”

“Yep,” I say, “He likes to cook. And he doesn’t mind chores, especially cleaning out the gutters and bug removal.”

“Mmhm. And he can keep up with your wit,” Anne ticks off requirements on her hands, one finger at a time. “One blue eye and one brown, for added mystery. He can be serious-minded but is still funny, and he loves to love you.” Anne hoots and hollers suggestively.

“He loves to dance with you because you fit well in his arms. Oh, and he can skip rocks!” Anne knows what I like.

“He sings well, and he’s much better at math than I am.” I sneak in two of my own ingredients, and imagine Anne stirring them up in a bowl, tossing the doughy mess into an oven, and waiting patiently for the ding of the timer.

“That’s easy to find.” Anne says, with eyes that are twinkling mischievously. “You’ve always sucked at math.”

“Humph,” I say, but she just smiles.

“Hm,” I nod. “Yeah, and he’ll be tall, and reasonably fit and attractive.” After all, I don’t want to fall in love with an ogre.

Lost in my fantasy, Anne opens the oven door, and removes a little man from a cookie sheet. She scoops him up with a spatula and plops him onto a platter. Anne carefully picks up one hand and blows into one little finger of the gingerbread man. He inflates like a balloon, until he is life sized. Anne sprinkles powdered sugar over the cookie to bring him to life.  he man sneezes once, blinks twice, and shifts his head from left to right. Right to left. He props his hands up and stands. Cocking his head like a puppet, he looks at Anne, who points imperiously to me. The cookie man smiles. He unfurls one arm, takes my hand in his, and we dance our way down the aisle, where we are married by a somber badger in a minister’s robe.

It would be a happy ending, except that I envision getting hungry at the reception, where food is not served, and I nibble on the arm of my giant cookie husband. He frowns at me. Little cookie crumbs have fallen out of my mouth. He picks up pieces of himself, and runs away, into the forest.

“Yeah, but not too tall, you’re sort of a shrimp.” Anne pokes me again.

“Beanpole.” I poke back.

“Shorty.” Poke.

“Telephone pole.” Poke.

“Acorn!” Poke.

“Walking stick!” Our fingers are exclamation points after each word, and we’re laughing again.

An ogre is now hauling me off over its shoulders to its cave. I make a mental note to avoid watching Rodgers and Hammerstein films for a while. Or any children’s movies from 1950 to 1989.

“Caroline . . .” Anne starts to say something then stops.

“Yeah, I know. I’ll be fine.” I sigh. We still hate goodbyes.

“I wish that I could go with you.” Anne looks guiltily at Ben.

“I know. But you can’t. You’re too busy, and besides,” I tell her, “You’ve got a man.” 

“Next time you decide to go on a trip, tell me ahead of time, so I can come with you.” She lectures me with her waggling finger again.

“I will. I promise. Next trip,” I say. A tiny stab of guilt is making its way from my stomach up to my throat.

“I love you,” she says, and shrugs her shoulders at me.

“I love you,” I say, and our voices are sincere. It’s so easy to say it and mean it. Of all my relationships, this one is the easiest to keep.

Not long after I negotiate my car outside of D.C., I get a text from Anne. A photo of an old man with one blue and one brown eye stares at me, with a lopsided grin. The caption reads: “I Found Him! Go to Nebraska!”

I cackle aloud and steer my car toward Boston. I hum along to the song that pops into my head.

“It’s Possible! For a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage!”

With a shake of my head, I hit the ogre over its bulbous noggin with its own club and escape on a motorcycle three times my size. Who needs a Prince when you are your own hero?

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