I’really going to miss your cooking, Paul told me on the day I finally moved out of the home we’d shared for three years, his voice creaking with lament. He’d taken a deep breath, winding up to deliver some final parting words, an elegiac salute to our seven years together — the road trips and Target runs, the meltdowns and make-ups, what we’d learned and who we’d become — but all he could think about was my grilled skirt steak tacos.
We’d broken up months before I moved out, and lived together awkwardly until I did, squirreled away into separate bedrooms while winter tiptoed into spring. Our set-up was torturous, but I knew the wait would be worth it — come June, I’d fly to Mexico after securing a sabbatical from my journalism job “to write poems,” I’d pleaded in an email to my editor. But neither Paul nor my work knew that I was running a small-time grift: I was headed to Mexico to be with Eduardo, the scuba diver I’d met a summer earlier on vacation with Paul. On our final afternoon in Cozumel, Paul insisted on hanging back at the resort, and so I’d embarked on a snorkeling excursion alone, mildly annoyed with Paul, yet totally unaware that I’d soon launch a yearlong affair with the tour guide who led a group of Canadian retirees, honeymooners, and me through Cozumel’s famed reefs.
And so from the night of our February break-up to late May, I told no one — least of all Eduardo — that I’d continued to cook for Paul. I cooked because I’d religiously made our meals for three consecutive years and to suspend operations, while ultimately fair, simultaneously seemed cruel. He’d come to rely on my cooking, to revel in my cooking, and after all those months of deception — pining for Eduardo from our shared bed, physically cheating on a return trip that fall — I felt like I owed him those meals. Paul was a 40-year-old man who was more than capable of fending for himself, and yet my dedicated culinary repertoire had rendered him into an adult baby I felt beholden to keep alive so I could absolve myself of cheating.
Shortly after we moved into that apartment on Tower Street, sandwiched between a funeral home at one end and Boston’s Forest Hills Cemetery at the other, I was rabid to make a home together. To start a new life and…