I spent last night in bed with Dr. Cohen. It’s grown cold in Chicago, so it was a pleasure to discover that, as warm places to put one’s feet at night, Dr. Cohen’s calves are wonderfully suitable.
Earlier in our evening together, Dr. Cohen laid tarps over his garden to keep the first frost from killing off his parsley and sorrel. Still dressed in his distinguished physician clothes, he walked out the back door, leaving me alone in his brightly lit kitchen. The hour wasn’t that late—probably only about six thirty—but because of this being November, no daylight remained. From indoors, at first I could see nothing. But instead of flipping on the television and pulling down shades, I turned off the lights and settled myself at the window. I could see his shape moving around out there in the dark: bending over, straightening up, moving from one side of the yard to fetch a tool and then to the other side to use it. At one point, for a considerable amount of time, he did nothing but stand silently, barely moving, with his back toward the house.
I find it appealing that Dr. Cohen has this dual life as high-powered cancer researcher and subsistence farmer. If he had pigs to feed, I’d like it even more.
When he came back inside, he had a basket full of greens and herbs. His cheeks had that wild, high color, the kind white men get from playing soccer on cold fall days. Before he even set down the basket or took off his gloves, he told me it’s inadvisable for me to travel out of the country.
“You’re alive, which by now you know is no small grace,” he said. “Once you leave, you have no guarantees this will still be the case.”
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.