Fall has come in so acoustically, and it is all around me now. I can see it most in the morning, when the rest of the world is asleep. The dogs stretch their long limbs, widen their jaws into yawns. They don’t want to walk on the dew. They want to sleep on the hand-stitched Navajo blanket in the morning. The coffee comes in bursts of steam. I wipe my glasses off with my sleeve. I stand in my underwear at the new kitchen sink, head dipped over the last of the summer’s peach. I tear it with my hands. I feel most strong when it’s quiet. When the shower is scalding hot. When the window is down but the heat is on. When I can wear jeans around the house. When our two bodies interlace at night, when I see the tan-lines faded. When the birthmarks start to show. When my palms and cheeks are red. When it’s late and you can only hear the occasional siren in the deep, deep distance of our new hometown. And soon a quick inhale and his long, familiar snore drowns everything else out.
I let the change happen, because it’s been good to me. I did not trust it at first, the change of adulthood. I looked back on how many lives I have lived, and how many more I have ahead and realized that, for each, the impetus was a desire for difference. I am lucky to feel the autumnal metamorphosis this year, because it is usually so stagnant in California. I am lucky to live in this two-bedroom house. I am lucky to discover all the new things I’m learning to love these last few years. I am lucky, I am lucky, I am very, very lucky.
This is not what I thought three weeks ago, buried in the bed. Covered up, hidden from my own insecurities. Afraid of my failures, not able to see my triumphs. My father called me and I hung up mid-sentence. Nolan kissed my hand and asked if I wanted to get ice cream. I cried until I shuddered. I was tired of owing any small amount of success to someone else, attributing each failure to my own misunderstanding of life and how it worked. I did not feel powerful. I did not wake up early and take a minute, recollect my thoughts, drink black coffee that fogged my lenses.
I locked the door and didn’t let anyone in. I incubated myself for three days. I reminded myself to be happy, because sometimes you have to, because no one else will.
I turned 23 the next week.
I moved into a new house four days later.
And at each moment I discovered something new. When the bruises began to turn purple, when I was most tender. When I limped away, licked my wounds. I found myself glad for the change. Glad to be alive, to have my head above the water when it came to my debts. Glad I recognized what I owed Nolan, happy to let myself be vulnerable so I could tell myself how stupid I was. Happy to wake up before the sun, because the sun sleeps in late these days, to brew coffee and write a note to Nolan. “There’s coffee waiting for you. Have a good day.” I write it on paper I got in Belgium, a souvenir of who I was, written over as someone new. I changed, I evolved.
I remind myself that my clothes aren’t in trash bags anymore. I remind myself that I never loved that drug dealer. I remind myself that my father was right, that I was young and stupid and didn’t appreciate a goddamn thing when I was 17. All of those things are different now. I remind myself that I have lifetimes ahead of me, and that this one is just passing. I remind myself that when I’m arthritic and can’t hold anyone’s hand, to be comforted in knowing that I let myself be vulnerable or a day or two. I remind myself all of these things, because fall isn’t a time for dying, it’s a time for remembering. That peacefulness of daybreak is all we have right now, and I couldn’t lay in bed once I realized what a mistake I’d made.
I made this fudge to have in the moments when I felt strong, when the ripped up stone fruit couldn’t satiate me. I made it to feel comforted by the pecans, to savor the tang of the buttermilk. It didn’t feel like home, but it felt like nostalgia.
Pecan Buttermilk Fudge
from Bon Appétit
- 1 cup pecans
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
- Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9×5” loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on long sides; set aside.
- Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darkened in color, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
- Heat sugar, buttermilk, butter, honey, and kosher salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until butter and sugar are melted, about 3 minutes.
- Fit saucepan with thermometer, bring mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thermometer registers 238° (mixture will be pale golden and smell faintly of toffee), 6–8 minutes.
- Immediately pour mixture into a medium bowl and, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat until cool and thickened (it will be stiff and matte), 5–8 minutes.
- Fold in pecans. Scrape fudge into prepared pan; smooth top and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Let sit at least 1 hour before cutting into pieces.