“Back when things were normal, what were your politics?” I ask Uno.
“Surely you can guess with reasonable accuracy.” He’s peeling a huge honeycrisp apple with a handsome pocketknife. I’ve decided to make my famous apple pie. This activity consists of my putting on a really cute apron with butterflies on it, and then pulling out attractive mixing bowls and a full bag of flour. I bustle—that’s what women do in kitchens, right?—and am a paradigm of efficiency. I make sure the music is decent, and provide clever repartee. Then, while I perform this high-quality bustling, my companion does all the cooking parts.
“Actually, no. You have that scientist’s failure to believe half-truths, and you’re pretty skeptical…but then, you’re also highly educated and people who work at universities are usually liberal…I don’t know. Libertarian?”
“Please, Jane,” Uno says. “Really? You find me that unkind?”
“Libertarians aren’t ungenerous, just realistic about human nature,” I say. “I could’ve been one.”
“My mother was an atheist, as most Swedes are. She grew up in a socialist country that functions smoothly and that causes little descent among the people governed. My father was an American Jew from Minneapolis. He was no socialist, but he despised anything that hinted at fascism.” The apple is now fully peeled, nude and vulnerable. Uno cuts it into slices so thin they could be measured in microns. “How many cups of apple do you need?”
I consult the recipe we’re using, one I’ve saved from prior episodes of pie-making with previous boyfriends. The page is appealingly spattered with the stains from brandy mixed with brown sugar and cinnamon. “Six, it says.”
“We don’t need government to save us from our best and strongest selves. When we’re healthy, rational, and resourceful, minimal government works fine. But none of us are that way for our entire lives. Even the mightiest among us have unavoidable periods of inattention. We need government’s cushion for those moments—for the weeks when we were too grief-stricken over a death or heartsick over a love affair to pay proper attention to our health insurance, for example, and then bang, somehow we got cancer right at that moment. Or for the times when we aren’t healthy enough to build our own roads or save properly for our retirements.”
“That’s what families are for, and communities. To help out people when they’re down.”
“When eighty percent of your population has been obliterated, that community safety net becomes not so safe anymore.”
“Okay, so I take it you’re not libertarian.”
“My dear and fawn-like treasure of a woman, I am so far to the left that you can barely spot me from the corner of your eye. If your peripheral vision isn’t up to par, you’d never see me at all.”
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.