Recipe for Two
My house comes alive when bats start up their nightmusic, and when Wesley’s back is turned in sleep. Him rolled away from me is the way it’s always been. When we married, his back was tamed licorice whips of muscle. Now it’s pudding and sweaty flannel.
We’ve lived in this house so long, its floors know how to creak with our weight, and in the basement, wetted tiles peel up at the sound of Caroline’s voice when she comes to check on us. I hear them whispering a song of unsticking, and it’s the same as the song in my head. I recognize the rotted chords.
We are old enough to live by ourselves and young enough too. There’s nary a neighbor lived on our street longer than us. Caroline’s my daughter, she doesn’t take after Wesley, he’s clumsy with small things. She was the drum majorette in high school, flashing her shiny baton, slicing the air in half. She uses her interest in math and science to take pictures of people’s insides. Seems so impolite. But she makes a living at it.
My math is 16 hooks for 16 mugs    in the cupboard and how I hear them swinging when they’re bored, which they always are because we only use two of them per day. My math is an old recipe for four, feeding the two of us twice, then the three of us for all those years, now feeding the two of us for most of a week. Wesley’s appetite is for candybars. Mine for salt and how it makes my mouth shrivel.
When I feel well enough for cooking, I double certain ingredients because I miss my spot among the lines. Salt I don’t mind doubled. Only my famous buttermilk biscuits come out perfect every time. One day soon, I’ll do them wrong. I repeat the lines to myself nights when I can’t sleep, a poem in flour.
At night, Wesley’s breath goes heavier than I can stand, and I roll myself out of bed so as not to wake him. Not an easy job for a woman my age. Sometimes it takes an hour to get all the way off and catch my feet into slippers without a dizzy spell. Sometimes I get sleepy by then and roll right back. Sometimes my slippers are rats  and they squeak so loud I can’t bear to put my feet into them. All these years, Wesley’s toes still look the way they did when we married. I like to look at his toes. When he naps on the couch, his slippers fall off, and there his niblets of toes are. Free to wiggle. If he dies before me, I’ll make sure to put his socks on so those toes stay my secret.
In the middle of the night, when he’s asleep, I pat all three cushions on the living room couch, to check their existence, and they puff dust back at me, dust of our dinner parties and dust of our bones, maybe some broken chocolate of Wesley’s, then the refrigerator hums and I check on its sweet blank sound in the kitchen, because as long as I can hear it hum, I’m still alive, and as long as I can see the five silver hooks with my cooking utensils, this is my kitchen even if Caroline asks me not to turn the burners on after last year’s fire. We don’t listen. Otherwise, I tell her, how will I make our morning tea? My daughter bought us a plastic kettle to plug into the wall but the whistle is wrong so I forget to use it. Now, the oven, I’m allowed.
The five silver hooks in the kitchen are for spatula, spatula, wooden spoon, whisk and the silver Vassar spoon my mother had, class of 1878. I tied string around it years ago to hang it with the others. The buttermilk biscuit recipe is hers and also how I sew curtains and can green beans and like the name Emily because it was hers. When I can’t remember my mother, the Vassar spoon will make me. It’s small and out of place, and that’s how I’ll remember her.
My daughter thinks we should move, but I know who she is. It’s our house, mine and Wesley’s. I know this too. Caroline’s husband, a building inspector, told us our stairs to the basement are not up to code, and where the kitchen used to lead down into storage and all the children’s slumber parties, child after child curling themselves in blankets on the tiled floor, my knitting corner was down those stairs. Our daughter’s husband installed a door that locks to stop us from going down there. They took the key home with them and ate it. We’ve lived here since the ’50s, and those stairs haven’t killed a person yet. My daughter and her husband live in a new house where everything is clean, but there are shadows on the walls of unborn children, and they sing while my daughter miscarries. Not being able to go down to my basement, it’s like they cut me off from half my life.
I would sleep better if Wesley would face me at night and not the wall. So I could watch him breathe. If he’s breathing, then so am I, and another day will come to us in the morning.