Resurrection Chicken Soup

Does the golden promise smell of chicken soup wafting up from the street to your third floor landing still linger through the years?

Can that hand delivered memory smell still come streaming back now that your old place on Second Avenue in Manhattan has been blown to kingdom come? Can the smell of chicken soup come back?

I read about that gas explosion last month and saw it was your old address. Made the national news. These days I work for a gas company. So I pay attention. I could tell you the details of exactly what happens when somebody tries to siphon off stolen gas. Let’s just say that chances are, it will not end well. This horror scene on Second Avenue, leveled what, three buildings? Pounded them into dust.

One of those buildings was where you lived. That place where we would write three-word great literature in the frost on the windowpanes. Where three stories up, the radiators would clank and sizzle through the winter and the traffic would rumble and roar outside while a puffy red comforter would wrap us up in all the warmth the world had ever known as we lay still and so alive, after love.

So all these years later, I read the news story of the gas explosion on the 21st floor of an office building in Chicago and once again I could smell the chicken soup. Across all the decades. The mist of broth and time from the Second Avenue Deli. Like some unseen hand, tugging at my sleeve and steering me to stand once more before Max’s holy silver alter steam table. Max, bushy gray moustache and white apron, points at the chicken soup tureen, shrugs his shoulders, says “Oy. For the girl again? Again for the girl?” I nod and look down.

I would take the soup and crackers in the brown paper bag, trudge on up to the third floor landing. Then on a dusty table under a perpetually burned out light bulb, I would leave my little offering.

Which I am sure drove you bat shit crazy. At least for awhile. What a pest I was!

I was trouble. I was not a future. I even had another girlfriend. So why in the name anything that matters should you spend even a second more with me? I was in marketing. What did that even mean! You worked for the same publisher. This is back when there was more than one publisher. Way before amazon dot come changed everything. In the East Village neighborhood joints after work, when people would ask you what you did, you’d say things like, “I scrub editorial toilets.” No one knew what that meant either but it was a much better answer than “I’m in marketing.”

What split us up? I guess there was little stuff. Most of it I don’t remember. We ran with the same crowd. Would be writers. Editors. Aspiring famous people. All of us in and out of each other’s lives. Often so much so that when someone hurt someone else, the story rippled out like a stone tossed in the pond leaving only circles on the water and a stone gone for keeps without even time to say “I’m sorry.” Or maybe “can we try this one more time?”

And that’s what prompted me to start in with the soup.

I had a place around the corner, like the guy in that song you didn’t like but I loved, would sing, “really no place at all, just a hole in the wall.” It was our first spring apart. Just before Easter, which overlapped with Passover that year. So the soup thing was kind of a interreligious meaningless gesture. Resurrection Chicken Soup.

You had come down with a horrible case of mononucleosis. Everybody was talking about how you literally couldn’t move. And there was nothing I could do about it.

Drove me fucking crazy. You got sick. I got crazy.

I knew you’d be fine. I knew the stories you sent spinning out our Second Avenue pond would be extra sharp. Extra funny. But there was nothing I could do to ease your troubles.

So I started leaving the soup. No words. Just the soup.

As you got better, you eventually lost the job scrubbing editorial toilets, but every time I heard news of you, I’d leave the soup. Every time something big would happen in your life, I’d bring the soup. I told Max I was sure I’d be bringing soup to your wedding.

You never mentioned it to anyone, I’m sure. Love is not the opposite of hate. Love is the opposite of indifference. I assumed your indifference. Probably a good thing that we never made it too many steps outside that that puffy red comforter, keeping us warm in the New York City winters. All that indifference can get old.

Of course you finally left the big city and so did I. One of us off to warmer winds and the other off to even colder winter winds. The night before you were set to leave town, I left my last brown paper bag on your third floor landing.

And down through the years I’d hear bits and snatches of stories of your adventures in the world of what happens when none of us are young anymore. So I’d dream up another serving of that soup for you. A ladle full of hope that your spirit was still shining.

Right on up to that big explosion, a couple weeks ago, that leveled your old place on Second Avenue. The explosion that brought back the smell of that chicken soup.

That soup I once again placed, like a story,or a birthday present, right outside your door.

9 Responses to “Resurrection Chicken Soup”

  1. boomerbob Says:

    Nothing raises one’s spirits and old memories like chicken soup.

    I once read a statement, somewhere, by someone, about writing and how to dredge up stories from within to write. Her statement was pretty accurate, I think; “simply write using your own life’s experiences.”

    I’d say you’ve had some very good chicken soup throughout your life :-).

  2. peterd213 Says:

    Chicken soup and “all the warmth the world had ever known.”

  3. Naomi de Plume Says:

    Oh ChiGuy! My husband won me over by bringing me soup when I was sick – this brings up more memories than just the scents.

    I love that you left one last soup before she left. You are my favorite romantic.

  4. chicagoguy12 Says:

    At LEAST one more!

  5. Helene W. Says:

    Yum, chicken soup, the best- What a way to woo someone

  6. Tom Cordle Says:

    Should be an excerpt from your soon to be forthcoming book, working title: Chicken Soup for the Soul Food

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