I was trying to persuade Mary to look at the big picture during a recent late-afternoon ritual at the Campbell Apartment in Grand Central, but she, whose compassion can be worrisome, demurred.
“Of course it’s not so hard for me,” I said, “because I don’t care as much as you do.”
“I wish I could be like that,” she said.
“Don’t be fooled by my equanimity, though — it’s simply self-absorption. That and the fact that I’m a bear of little brain.”
We were at the end of our Big Day, a day in the city during which we had spent four hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, mostly with the Steins of 27 rue de Fleurus, and were, in the Campbell Apartment’s large dark-paneled room, inclined to be reflective, if not elegiac, and relieved to be off our feet.
A half-hour later, on our way on from Grand Central to our Jitney stop at the side of the New York Public Library, I said that the teatime glass of wine had been restorative.
“I’m no longer twittering with the swallows in the skies — I feel like trilling again. You know, like the nightingale.”
“Better that you trill than twitter — it sounds happier.”
Her derailed sleep cycle had impelled me a few days before to buy for her a bag of valerian root at Mitad del Mundo, an Ecuadorean store on North Main Street.
She was immediately repelled by the smell. Cooking it up that night as she slept, our augmented Cape was transformed into an odoriferous hut high in the Andes.
I added a good bit of chamomile and honey, as our daughter Georgie had instructed, to make the valerian root more palatable, and left beside the cup a note saying, “Drink Me . . . If You Can.”
I didn’t think the valerian was that overpowering, but of course I thrill, nay trill, to runny Camembert.
The next morning I learned that a sip of the tea — she was touched by my concern — along with the warm milk she usually takes had been effective. But, boy, did it stink up the house. And what dreams she had had!
“And all for only $3.50!” I chimed in, full-throatedly. “But perhaps I ought to get the gel caps.”