I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Or the next day. Or any of the days allocated to me until my time is up. But no one does, right? No one can count on love to last, or their ship to come in, or on their next breath. I may never stand in the icy wind staring up at the Moais on Easter Island, or feel the growl of Tom Waits as he paces across a stage like a caged lion. I may never hear my own baby bellow as it’s forced out into the uncertain world.
So I cling to what I know. I know I’m lucky every morning that my mind and body respond to the chime of an alarm. I know I am loved, even if not by that one person. I know music saves me, laughing transforms me, and that my friends are kind to tolerate me. As I get older I know temperate weather is a pleasure worth celebrating and that no one is interested in hearing me recount my dreams.
But when my vision blurs and I can’t see far ahead, when the road is too long and straight and all the streetlights are blown, I narrow my focus to food. A day becomes two sleeps, three meals and uncounted snacks; eating becomes a distraction, a salve and a study. The time spent dreaming, planning, cooking and consuming is time away from doubt.
On a steamy, rain-soaked Wednesday night two of my life’s certainties collide when I meet a patient, cherished friend for a carefully considered dinner. At one of their two Sydney locations, only blocks apart in Marrickville, we sit at a table in the center of Pho Phd. One long wall is skinned with 60s-esque gold glitter wallpaper, the opposite a gray scale mural of bustling old-timey Vietnam. Between the two is a crowd of red-toned wooden tables and chairs. Our orders are, as usual, the same: pho rice noodle soup with medium rare beef ($13 for the large) and a squinty-sour, teeth-buzzing sweet fresh lemon juice ($4). The vats are delivered with two cautious hands, a waft of warm, fragrant steam heralding their arrival. Amber broth laps at the brim, barely concealing a heap of soft rice noodles and sliced beef turning quickly from pink to grey in the heat. We pile on the bean shoots and herbs, then add a squirt of fresh lime, hoisin and chili sauces before driving our chopstick shivs into the mire. Between slurps of the comforting star anise and cinnamon infused soup I despair and she listens. And it all helps. The warm, salty-sweet soup, her warm heart and the warm, wet night.
I can never have enough time with the people who mean the most; I can’t make someone love me. I can’t speed through the heartbreak and pain or go back to when I felt invincible with love. But I can get through another day and end it with a soothing bowl of soup, and I can pour my heart out to a dear, kind friend as the rain pours down outside.