My sister came to visit us here in New York this weekend. She lives in San Francisco now, so my chances to spend time with her are far and few between. On Friday we went to Soho looking for a spare part for my bike, and then we wandered around Little Italy and Chinatown, searching for ingredients for a big meal we had planned for last night. I love walking around New York with a destination; I have lived here long enough that simply wandering the city just doesn't excite me like it used to, and I'm too American to be a flâneur -- I like to know where I'm going and what I'm going to do when I get there. It began to rain late in our tour, but it was a warm day, and the rain just added to the special-ness of the occasion: a day just to be with my sister, here in the city that I call home, doing nothing extraordinary but enjoying every moment of the intimacy of the streets.
My sister and I don't always get along. I know that most siblings are like that, but with us there have been some particularly bad months over the last few years. We are trying to make things better, even though we live so far apart. I think it's a good sign that, after she left this afternoon, I felt lonely without her.
This morning we both woke up early and visited the nearby farmers market, picking out sweet potatoes and parsnips, arugula and milk, bacon and cheese. It was delightful to walk around one more time with her, this person who looks so much like me, this person who knows so much about me, more even than I could tell you. I took particular pride in showing her our neighborhood and our city; maybe, someday, she'll decide to leave California and make her way to this coast.
We spent the rest of the morning much as we did growing up, each one working on her own project (she was finishing an article for work; I was starting a take-on exam). From time to time we called out to each other, commented on this or that, and then she went to have coffee with a friend, and I made us lunch.
I often make lunch on the weekends, for Chuan and me, but he was away with other friends this morning, and this lunch was for my sister. She has started to cook for herself, too, now that she has graduated from college and is living on her own. Every meal that we have together is sprinkled with questions and comments to one another about the recipe, the ingredients, how we did or that or what we might do better in the future. This time, she wanted to know how I make beans. I love making beans, and already on this trip she had tried one version of mine (large white beans, Italian-style, with lots and lots of olive oil and black pepper). For lunch I made a quick-cooking dal, flavored with hot curry, red pepper, asafoetida, and cumin seeds. We had carrot risotto left over from last night's Italian feast, and the salad was arugula and apples from the farmers market. Blackberries and honey formed a simple dessert.
I find it easy to cook for the people that I love. I only wish that I could do it more often, that my family were not spread across this country, shore to shore. In the scant hours before she left, I felt myself grasping at the time remaining, wishing that my sister could stay just a while longer. Afterwards, I sat at the same table where we had just eaten, and tried to focus on my exam. I couldn't. I felt sad and I just needed to feel sad for a few minutes. Listening to Bach's keyboard concertos helped, as did my bike ride later this afternoon, but I still feel lonely. And that's how I should feel, I tell myself -- there's nothing wrong with these feelings, but like all uncomfortable feelings, they are disconcerting. But rather than push them aside, let me admit that I said good-bye to someone today, and it hurt. I love her, I miss her, and I said good-bye.