Dwindling Chicken in the Fridge

I’ve been living off rotisserie chicken. Because I'm five months pregnant. And because Luke already left for Alaska. Five months ago, I meant to blog about our house, post before and after's, plant vegetables, paint the second bedroom, write more, puke less, but I learned no matter how excited you are to be pregnant, first trimester can still pretty much ruin your life. Now that I'm feeling better, I buy chicken. I get it at the beginning of the week and shred chunks from the bone with a butter knife. These go down the hatch in one of two forms: cold salted chunks, plain, pale and lined as the side of a book; or inside burritos I never warm, spread with salsa, refried beans, sour cream and a shower of dill. Inside the fridge, the carcass reduces day by day until it is a lattice of ribs and skin, evidence of another week of just me eating it, one bird picking at another bird, while Luke counts cod on baited hooks 30 miles off the coast of Russia.

He got the call the last week of March while we were in Louisiana, putting past cane fields and half-torn saloon signs outside Bordelonville, the sun that weekend our last string of spring before he’d leave. If I had known we would get so little warm weather together this year, I would have pushed for two more days in New Orleans, eating sandwiches on a balcony and petting tropical plants on humid mornings in Audubon Park. I would have stretched out this pretend feeling a warm early spring brings that we have the same seasons as the people who take them for granted.

“You’re not going to be happy,” Luke said, when he hung up the phone. But he knows that now that I don’t live there, whenever I’m in Louisiana, I’m happy. It’s sunny and people eat outside together and hunger is satiated with abandon and piles of crawfish that bleed red onto Sunday dresses and under fingernails, and that weekend, Kate sang a song in front of 200 people on a deck where men in ties pulled up ugly fish on makeshift lines.

Fishing where its warm is less dangerous and more relaxed. The fish are small and closer to dead than our salmon when they hit your hand. Sometimes I wish Luke chose a lesser profession, a smaller boat, but then we wouldn’t have our house or his strong hands. “They want me on a boat on Sunday. Off the coast of Kodiak.” And it’s true, I was still happy, even with this news of his early departure from a home we’d just bought and a pregnancy that I thought we’d be experiencing in-person together.

These are the facts of marrying a fisherman: Fish means money. Money means time. And for me, time means I’ll finally make the window curtains and finish the book and bake layered desserts and eat them with friends under paper lanterns I have strung myself under the peach trees that need more watering than I have time for out back. Time and money mean that maybe we’ll be able to travel together to places where I can wear thin-strap dresses and sandals at night. I know these sound like petty things, but of all the times of year, I've always had a love affair with summer.

It was only the morning Luke left from the airport that was hard, the sobs coming out of me like clangs on a xylophone. “It’s because I’m pregnant,” I wailed, a man at the Skycap watching in anxiety. I wanted to sidestep Luke and rub my belly for him and give him the “this-is-why-I’m-crying” look. Instead, I told Luke not to die on the boat because I’ll need him to cook when he gets back.

I don’t pity myself during these months of eating alone. But I do become obsessed with other couples. This is the season for eating nachos at the open air Mexican restaurant down the street. Two margaritas, two plates, two people. I walk by with the dog during happy hour and push back the bitterness. This is different than living alone, I did that for years. It is living minus one. And now with my body being plus-one, it doesn’t cancel out the minus, just maximizes it.

But living alone comes with its benefits, too. I eat ice cream more often than Luke would let me. Instead of vacuuming, I just get out the dust buster and find all the dead flies (Sorry, Luke. The vacuum is heavy and it lives in the basement). I paid the taxes, weeded the garden, did the laundry, mailed out letters--all things Luke would have done because him being here allows me to be lazier.

Maybe I'm more productive because movement helps me find home in my aloneness. I swim laps or walk for hours, sometimes past the time I should be out by myself. When I get back to our house where there are early purple irises and mail from other fisherman’s wives, the convincing becomes conviction: I am an “independent woman” and hungry again for refrigerated chicken.