For decades, he made the meals. After his restaurants had closed, the kitchen, which faced out to the rest of the apartment, had become his domain. When company came, which it did often, he put the homemade pate, the lentil dishes, the carved meat, the white beans, the bowls of cauliflower puree out on the wood table. You were to help yourself.
She invited them in, took them, and their lives, into hers; she followed their achievements, attended their shows, checked on the progress—as artists, lawyers, writers, whatever. Defiant too, she broke it off with her older sister. But she nurtured the younger, mentally unstable one; she took in her children and raised them; she managed her doctors and hospital stays.
Then she herself became ill and he kept her going on protein rich broths—rabbit heads and fowl bones—and round the clock nursing. They kept coming and calling to sit and speak to her, to tell her about their achievements and disappointments and always he produced plates of roasted vegetables or slices of salami, mustard, and bread.
Then she died and the younger sister, in a wheelchair, half out of it, came to the apartment. When it was time to leave—for what was this apartment going to be without her?—he bent down to the sister in her wheelchair, who looked ahead only into some dark realm, and said, “I’ll call to check in on you tomorrow.”