by Steven Rosa
On the day I met Adagio, I wandered the city in the rain for hours, unfeeling and without volition, as if I were being carried along by two handles. I was blank. Nothing now could ever be as it had been.
I had known other servers, of course. A bamboo number with tapered corners and a slide-out drawer embarrassed me in front of my friends. A ludicrous piece made to look like a slice of a tree trunk remained in my living room for months, defiant and unwashable.
A smooth square slate was, before Adagio, my best server. It was heavy and expressionless. It invited me to write upon it with soap stone. I came to think that it cared what I wrote. When a friend mistook it for a sample bathroom tile sent by a contractor, I saw it for what it really was: smug and selfish. It had never cared at all what I put upon it. I hated myself for being seduced by it.
I had believed that cheese and love are meant to be shared with a server, but as I peeled away from one bad relationship after another, I shared less and less. I hoped for my own bitter rind.
On the day I met Adagio, then, I felt dry and crystalline. A friend had invited me to join a group to share some cheese and I decided to go and suffer through it. I drifted into the room and sat with them and their wine. Adagio was at the center of the group but I didn’t notice it at first. I sagged as they all prattled on about Midcentury Modern and milkless milkshakes. I became aware very gradually that the server was watching me through the cheese arrayed on it. I looked down at it and sucked in a breath. It was impossibly beautiful. It was strong but light, long and sleek like a limousine, a coffin, a dolphin carved from obsidian as a totem to a joyful, violent god. It looked back at me with an open eroticism. I blushed and glanced around at my friends: all still jabbering and nodding, offering each other squishy affirmations and blandishments. None of them noticed Adagio.
In that moment I didn’t hesitate. I abandoned the whole wad of wrinkled grievance that I had been dragging along all these months. I waded into Adagio’s unfathomable black surface. I was hit by new cravings: for fetid barnyard straw, for smoky, smeary ash, for the cheerful tang of blue mold. I leaned in. Our talking that afternoon, Adagio’s and mine, went unheard by anyone else in the room. We ranged and laughed; we loved the same cheese; we hated the same trends. We traded possibilities: Adagio could show anything, could impress everyone; I could bring people together around it. In our salons ideas would bloom, friendships would ripen. We would do it together.
I was struck by Adagio’s self-assurance: if hurled against the wall, I wondered, would it even crack?
My friend who had invited me looked startled.
“No,” they said, “It’s unbreakable.”
I hadn’t realized I’d spoken aloud, interrupting their story about the dog who does yoga.
The party ended. I stood up and hugged people at random. Adagio was bare, ready for more, ready for any burden. It had been cleared of its cheese, cleared of everything I had told it. “It’s all gone!” my friend observed, pleased. I was all gone.
As I left their house, I turned back in the doorway to see my friend clearing the table. One polished black corner of Adagio flashed at me. All at once, heavy rain fell into the street like a drawer of silverware pulled out onto a kitchen floor. It soaked me through in an instant. I took a step forward and grinned. My facial muscles felt stiff.
I don’t remember how long I wandered the streets. I began to feel very hungry and cold. When I was ready to go home, I looked up at the building I happened to be facing and found that it was mine. I tramped inside, dripping, and went up to my apartment. My things all looked papery. My furniture looked beige.
I thought, this is how I have been living? Surrounded by all this detritus, without cheese, without people, huddling alone at the back of a grotto? No, I realized. I had not been living.
I had been waiting.
About the Author
Steven Rosa is a freelance event chef in NYC. He thinks about food a lot.