What chorizo taught me about love


Love is not a feeling; it is an action. 

That is what I think as I watch him stand over the stove stirring fragrant chorizo.

The oily spiced aroma of the sausage fills the kitchen and mingles with the cheap patchouli reek of a nearby package of incense. 

Afternoon light seeps through the blinds, but we are about to eat breakfast. 

Love is not a feeling; it is an action. What a blessing and a curse to think in maxims. Lucrative for a writer but unwieldy for a thinker. Which vocation is higher, I wonder. 

Neither as high as his: designated cook for a small household in the neighborhood. 

Such essentialness. Such service. A daily sacrifice seemingly small that accrues into a great cross to be forever born. Any home cook knows this. In any given household the cook is most like Jesus: a Saint or an artist depending on the age, what Sontag called the “exemplary sufferer.” 

Yet how dare I reduce his vocation to home cook? It is a function yes, important, but not representative. He has aspirations as lofty as any. Though, like mine, they are largely unrealized. The silken singing voice, the indispensable charisma, the hunger for improvement. He is ambitious. I shudder at the thought of ever saying what he will become. It would be hubris. But what he is right now is our cook. 

And thank heavens. 

I look down and regard my plate covered with flaky pastry debris. We had pan dulce earlier and the mild sweetness of the bread lingers, melding with the bitter Café Bustelo aftertaste still present in my unbrushed mouth. 

Love is not a feeling; it is an action.

This occurred to me last night as I lay awake next to him. His soft snores a pleasing background to my questing thoughts. Thoughts that push and push themselves to logical extremes. At the precipice, they stop, knowing they can go no further. 

I have always been a romantic. Living every moment as if I was in a thick beloved novel. Making even the smallest experience into something beautiful, poignant, memorable. I was born with the basic wisdom that there comes a day, inevitably, when memories are all we have to keep us warm. I do not intend to be cold. 

This is easy for me to do when I am alone. But when some romantic whim depends on the cooperation of another person very often they disappoint me. Especially if we have intimate knowledge of each other.  

Ironically romance is the least romantic thing I’ve experienced yet. 

The truth is other people are incredibly mundane. To be attached, to be bonded, this is no great thing. Attachments lend themselves to a romantic life.  To love means to accept the innumerable disappointments, the pedestrian realities that another person foists upon your immaculate visions of a splendid life. To accept something means to live alongside it with no desire to change it. Why should one do this? Is there a reward? Is a reward necessary? 

I haven’t lived long enough to know. I haven’t arrived at the peak of this mystery but rather I ascend it by means of a painful though determined crawl. 

Maybe one undergoes the degradation of loving another to say one has done it. To go before God with the ability to say you did something selfless.

Maybe it is to attain the thrill of the ultimate collaboration: living a life not sublime but shared. Co-created. 

Maybe it is to teach us that perfection is not to be strived for. That it is a trap, a deadly mirage. That our individual efforts to make a life cinematic in its sanitized beauty is foolhardy and not half as fine as helping to make a life where imperfection is robed in dignity and affection. 

That is what he teaches me. 

Among other things like how to make love and enchilada sauce, he teaches me that romance always pales in comparison to reality. 

What could be is not as important as what is.