The ingredient that gives my blueberry pie a hint of sweet sadness is lemon zest. Bits of grated yellow peel sting the tooth, and cause the lips to pucker and twitch. A hint of bitterness clings to the root of the tongue. The back of the licker rises constantly, forcing down mouthful after mouthful of flaky crust embedded with berries chewed with only the roof of the mouth. The taste can make one cry, or bring a tear to the eye. It is the peel of a lemon that brings out an intoxicating sensation in the mind. Lips loosen. Ships sink. The berries do not gel into a glob of purple jelly, especially after the pie has cooled.
My blueberry pie nearly caused Linda Aldory to be admitted to Beleview. She begged for a third refill to her glass of Conacha y Toro wine and a second helping of what I knew was the best pie ever made. Later that evening, she broke down like a baby and cried. I think it was the pie that caused her to lose her composure. Anthony and I served the same type of wine every time they came over. I knew it wasn’t the wine that was causing her sadness, she drank it almost every night. The wine was cheap. Linda talked with her mouth full all the time, but never had I seen tears roll down her bloody lips. Her legs were crossed all evening as we dined, never once getting up to fetch something for the table or even to pee. She had a cloth napkin from the Pottery Barn draped over her entire lap. Anthony picked up the linen cloths at 75% discount. They were the type that required ironing. Linda was skinny and pretty. She sat with the napkin draped over what kept John in check, never once wiping her mouth. Her Middle Eastern features, unlike John’s, were of the Islamic vine. Her father, I understood from past conversations, was Saudi Arabian.
John the Jew and Linda, a token Muslim, how cute they were as a pair. John with his curly, brown hair, fat lips and big nose looked nothing like Alex and Russell, John’s former roommates who hung out with Anthony and me before Linda came into the picture. John had what Anthony called a “certain doofiness about him”; a certain stupidity that was not due to genetics or a common capacity to learn, but an ignorant sort of trust for others. Anthony said he saw the same features in me, only I was what he referred to, often while slapping me across the ass in public, as “white trash with a big ass and an ability to cook like a black woman.” At least I knew how to cook, which is more than one could say in regards to Linda.
Anthony and John met at work. John was the vice president of marketing for his uncle’s business, a company called Norma Ribbon and Trimming. Anthony, a graduate from the School of Fashion Institute of Technology was production manager there. He and John often referred to Norma Ribbon as a sweat shop. Neither could wait to get away from ‘pedaling Uncle Bob’s ribbon all day’. Norma Ribbon used Mexican women who lived just across the boarder from Brownsville to hand weave strings of satin lace into intricate flowers and bows. They worked almost non-stop inside huts with dirt floors, according to Anthony. Machines could not duplicate what these women made with their hands and Bob Steinhart sold to companies like Gloria Secret for a small fortune. John and Anthony were like pastry chefs of the fashion industry and could not wait to get out of the kitchen. Norma Ribbon has touched the bosoms of almost every woman in America, according to John. The fancy bows were commonly found on women’s undergarments prior to the resurgence of breast- feeding in the early 1990’s.