I've been going to the field house everyday to walk around the track; the consequence of doing this blog is that I'm no longer hungry, strangely, and at the same time I'm desperate to be in my body in some way. This can't be bad. But despite the exercise, my mind works overtime, and the music in my headphones does nothing to drown it out. I am on the verge of something in my life, I think, but I'm terrified what that something will turn out to be. I am living life with my breath held. I'm living as if my life is a lump in my throat.

There's a young woman, a college student, who comes at the same time as I do. She's on the track team -- high jump -- and warms up while I walk. We're usually the only ones there. She starts next to me, sprinting. I keep walking.

My brain keeps whirring, like a computer crashing. Someone I'm acquainted with is having an affair with one of his students. I've known for a while, and the knowing has been killing me. I can't figure out why I'm reacting this way. I want to think that it's because of my feminist politics, my sense of ethics, my protectiveness of the students I teach. My reaction is out of proportion to that, though; it brings me to tears when I think about it, I experience it with an impotent rage. Is it jealousy? Not really. Not jealousy of him, because I don't envy his male privilege, this seductiveness of authority that men my age seem to have -- I have other ways to attract, without having to rely on power (or powerlessness) -- and not jealousy for him, because I don't find him appealing. Maybe I'm jealous of his needing so little; for some people any twenty-two year old will do, I think cruelly. Is it resentment of the young woman (who I don't know, have never seen), of what I presume to be her attractiveness, her naiveté, her not-yet-formed understanding of the world?

I don't know. Maybe.

The young track star laps me. She's got boy hips -- no hips -- and thick, powerful thighs, and the face of an eleven-year old. Her short, kinky hair is in a scrunchy, a child's ponytail high on her head. She sprints by. I watch her, steady in her long stride, fascinated by her movement: like a colt, light on her toes. She wears her skin unthinkingly, just the way she puts on lip balm. Automatically, like a well-worn habit.

My body doesn't feel that way -- it never has. Or, it has, but only in such specific moments, moments in which I lose myself. Childbirth was one of those; pumped up on oxytocin, wracked by contractions one on top of the other, blind with pain for four hours, and unmedicated (not by choice), I was practically unconscious for the experience. But the nurses said to me afterwards that I was so sure of what my body needed to do; they were surprised at how precise I was in the way I would move and position myself in my frenzy of pain. I wish I remembered what that felt like. Most of the rest of the time I wear my body like a dress that doesn't fit, like a suit of armor that needs to be oiled, like an old version of Microsoft Word where that stupid paperclip keeps popping up at the most annoying possible moment. Like something wrong, or at least ill-suited to the task at hand.

And then, suddenly, a vision in my head.

The young woman is halfway around the track now, and when I look at her I am overwhelmed by a desire to consume her, to eat her. To devour her and chew her and ingest her. I picture tearing at her flesh with my teeth, and the stickiness of her blood on my lips. I'm shocked by this impulse, terrified even, horrified, appalled, disgusted, and I choke on my gasp. I'm going mad, obviously -- I'm breaking down. Right? This is what it must feel like. I compose myself a moment later; the flash of violence has dissapated. I laugh at my ridiculousness, at the transparency of my wants, at stories of despots eating virgin's hearts in a quest for youth, but then my mind calls up images of warriors eating the hearts of their enemies and my smile evaporates. She's not my enemy, I scold my unconscious. I'm like an animal, all instincts and drives, I often say, but I'm not prepared for the feralness of this impulse.

My sense of aging has nothing to do with my actual age, or the way I look, or my sense of my body breaking down -- or, well, it isn't mostly about those things. It has to do with lost time. It has to do with realizing that I spent more of the time in my marriage out of love than in love, that I lived since my late twenties in a haze of repeated depressions, that I have lost my intellectual passion. A classic mid-life crisis, a cliché. The problem with clichés is that they're truer than not; life is banal. Mine is, at least. If I'm going to have a mid-life crisis, I want the kind that can be assuaged by a sports car or a toupée or some botox and tight jeans or a fling with an inappropriately young boyfriend or renovating a house in Tuscany or praying in a yoga retreat in India or getting my groove back on a beach in Jamaica. I seem to have caught the one that is not so easily or pleasurably cured.

I am too old for my appetites. I spent so much time denying them -- except for my appetite for food, that is, which became a proxy for all the other desires -- and now I want to experience all those things. I want a do-over. But not with the knowledge of the world I have now. Some desires can only be fulfilled in a state of ignorance. I want to be stupid young again. I want the blitheness of youth.

The young woman, warmed up, steps off the track to stretch. I finally notice me. I look down at my legs: long, with hamstrings like steel cords and pockets of soft flesh. I unclench my hands -- I've had them clenched, it seems, for four years straight, and I have to will them open -- and look at my long fingers, and the chipping cobalt blue nail polish my child has applied to my nails.

I walk faster for a while, then stop and go home. The young woman keeps stretching, not noticing me leave.

Beef Heart Indad
Serves 6

IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe is too good to skip; if you don't find yourself in the mood for beef heart you can make it with other meats. Instructions below.

1. Start with a heart. An organic beef heart will weigh around 1.5 lbs, and come butterflied. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to trim that sucker to within an inch of its life. You will cut off all the silverskin (the tough, silvery membrane that covers the interior and exterior surfaces), the fat, and anything that looks valve-like or tube-y. Cut the remaining muscle into large hunks. They should look all solid and meaty and deep red.

2. In a pot, place the beef heart pieces with enough water to cover. Add 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp peppercorns, a few allspice berries, and a few cloves. Bring to a boil, and then simmer vigorously for about an hour, topping up the water if necessary, until the beef heart is cooked and tender. (You will test this by cutting off a little chunk and tasting it.) This step goes much faster in a pressure cooker; let it cook at pressure for 20 minutes and then come down from pressure naturally. When done, remove beef heart. Strain the (unbelievably pure and delicious) broth and keep aside.

3. Make the masala: In a blender, throw 1 onion, chopped; 2" piece of ginger, chopped; 6 garlic cloves; 1 jalapeno, with or without seeds depending on how much heat you want, or an equivalent of other (real) green chilies; 1 TB cumin powder; 1 tsp turmeric powder; 1 TB paprika; 1 small cinnamon stick; 6 cloves; 2 tsp salt; and 4 dried Guajillo chilies, seeds shaken out and torn into pieces. Add 1/4 c white vinegar or red wine vinegar and turn on the blender; purée the mixture, adding water if necessary to make a really smooth paste. Really smooth. Really, really smooth.

4. In a wide sauté pan, heat 3 TB canola oil over medium heat. Add the masala paste and stir immediately to keep it from sputtering. Now fry the masala paste for at least 30 minutes; you need to cook the heck out of this so that the onions get properly cooked. You will have to stir it every few minutes, and when it starts to stick add a small bit of the reserved broth.

5. After about 30 minutes or so, the masala should taste quite cooked, with no bitterness of onions. Add the beef heart, cut into bite-sized chunks, along with another cup or so of the broth; you want a slightly soupy gravy. Now, add 2 TB light brown sugar or jaggery (palm sugar). Taste the gravy: you want a balance of sour (from the vinegar) and sweet, with enough salt. Adjust those three elements until it pleases you. Let the mix stew for about 15 more minutes, and then turn off the heat.

5. Serve immediately or (even better) let the curry sit for a while for the flavors to deepen. This is best with white rice, even better with a side of fava beans and a nice Chianti.

For Pork Indad (the classic), brown chunks of pork shoulder or country ribs in a pot; discard all but 3 TB of fat, and proceed with the recipe, substituting water for the broth as you fry the masala. Return the meat to the pot with around 1.5 c of water and let cook for 45 mins to an hour, until the pork is extremely tender.

For Duck Indad (also very traditional), brown skinless pieces of bone-in duck, and proceed as for Pork Indad.


Anonymous said…
"I want to be stupid young again. I want the blitheness of youth."

I hear you.

Beautiful post.

Thank you, SH. I don't recognize the initials -- should I?

I'm glad you like it.
Unknown said…
Your post made me think of this image I came across while teaching Orientalism a while back...

Someday when this (what?) is all over, I'll tell you about my own mid-life crisis...
Unknown said…
Which by the way I'm not sure I've emerged from... ;-)
I'd love to hear that story, Pamela. <3
Anonymous said…
Brilliant - I laughed out loud when I got to the recipe title.

Could mid-life be the new coming of age? That's what it feels like to me - I feel young and aged at the same time, I experience as much emotional turmoil as during puberty, and have an insatiable hunger for meat.

Thank you for sharing!

Thank you! And I'm glad it made you laugh -- that's what I had been hoping for. It's true, mid life does feel a little like adolescence -- and I didn't have much of an adolescence (I wasn't a teenage rebel) so maybe I'm getting my ya-yas out now.

Thanks for the comment.
Ape said…
Brilliant! I'm getting my long-overdue dose of Aruna this evening...
Ape said…
Brilliant! I'm getting my long-overdue dose of Aruna this evening...