He told me a lot of things before he told me he was a chef. I knew the story behind his tattoo, about his travels through Brazil. He told me what it was like to grow up in Australia, his feelings about snow in New York. It wasn’t until the third time we saw each other, though, that we discovered that a chef and a food writer had been meeting up all this time.
Thomas was passing through Los Angeles on one of those cross-country expeditions—the kind that only people shadowing Kerouac or non-Americans do—a bold stab at trying to make sense of the ever-changing landscape, or maybe it’s an attempt to make sense of the self. After training in French technique-driven kitchens throughout New York, Thomas decided to take a break from the line. A mutual friend had introduced us at the beginning of his stay in LA, and I agreed to show him around my neighborhood.
One night, over cool glasses of Chardonnay in a West Hollywood garden, Thomas agreed to cook for my friends and me. The dinner would take place on Friday evening at my home, and that morning I entrusted him—still somewhat a stranger—with keys to my apartment.
In all my time dating there have been a handful of men that have cooked for me. But as I stepped into my apartment that evening, I realized, no man has ever cooked a meal at my home, awaiting my arrival. I’ll say this: I’ve dined at some of the most brilliant, grandest restaurants in the world, and nothing, nothing tastes as good as a meal your man has ready for you after a long day. Sure, Thomas wasn’t my man, but that night he was. And as our eyes caught across the table of eight dinner guests, he knew it, too.
The next day Thomas was expected in San Diego. Our time was running out. In the yellow glow of the morning light we spent hours, stretching time, and discussing love.
Whenever I fall in love, he said, I find myself leaving her for a new city.
That’s why there’s food, I whispered back. For people like us, who run from love.
We embraced near my banquet table, strewn with wine bottles and empty plates, and I thanked him for dinner. I’ll swing by LA on my way to Utah, Thomas said. I’ll come back to see you.
I chuckled. I’ve been accused of chasing the one-off, and I have a propensity for avoiding repetition. Stability and consistency make me shudder, the way most people fear change. But when it comes to love, all I want, is someone who makes me not want to let go.
Thomas didn’t know it yet, but I did—we wouldn’t see each other again.
He left and I dug through my fridge for leftovers. Then I crawled into bed with a bowl of his mango ceviche. There are a few things in life I don’t mind having more than once. His ceviche was one of those things. I ate it, nestled in bed sheets. It tasted even better that morning.