A widow. A rose. A table. A cake.

God is a widow in a mantilla and I pass her every day at work.  She sits at a bus stop and cross-stitches red roses on black cloth.  Always looking down, always toiling.  Hungry and waiting at the bus stop.  I drink some coffee and forget about her for the day.

Roses, they mean things.  I've only ever received roses twice.  Once when my grandmother died, each grandchild got a red rose to throw on her grave.  Once for Valentine's Day, when we had resolved to take some time apart, to see other people, perhaps to be our own people.  Those were yellow.  Roses, they speak things.  The widow sews roses while she waits for the bus stop, deep red roses.  Grave roses.  She's telling a story, passing the dawn light between her needle and thread.  Stitching years of aching years, manacled to her task.  I forget about her every day.

I toil in my own way.  I try to keep busy.  I leave tasks until the last moment, when the flies dance on the trash, when I have to use a fork to spread jelly.  I do this to have a task, to distract my mind, to tell myself that I will keep living as long as I stay busy.  I think I'll be rewarded if I just keep moving.  I think it's called Protestant work ethic.  But, I just keep thinking how sharks and hummingbirdswill die if they ever stop moving.  I wonder which one I am.

I like to work with my hands.  Holding other people's, tenting them in some facsimile of devotion when I really need a favor.  Throwing carrot stumps to Milo, hiding my face when I'm hungover and working twelve hours.  I used to beat my brother at thumb wars and now I could go a year without ever thinking about him.  I used to do a lot of things, but I built all the furniture in this tiny apartment of mine.

I built myself a table this week, I built it from old fence posts. I found them on a walk.  I sanded them down and I thought about that old woman and her stitching, so I stained the wood as dark as her fabric, as dark as her drawn-on eyebrows, as dark as the mantilla she wears under the high Texas sun.  I work on it when I need to focus, I'm not afraid to knick it or scratch it.  I'm not afraid to hurt it like I am with the hearts of others.  I crumbled old yellow roses on it, the last of that old Valentine's Day bouquet.  I baked on it, too.  An almond-cornmeal cake with rose buttercream frosting.  And I knew I was cursed with the same old hex as that widow on my morning drive--we're too afraid to be alone, so we just keep staying busy.

Almond-Cornmeal Cake with Rose Buttercream Frosting

For the cake:

  • 10 TB butter, room temperature
  • scant 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 TB clover honey
  • 3 whole eggs, large
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk 
  • 2 ts vanilla extract
  • 1/2 ts almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 ts baking powder

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 2 ts rose water extract
  • about 2 TB heavy cream

For the cake: makes one 9-inch cake or two-tiered 5-inch cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease desired pan, use parchment for bottom of pan
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter, yogurt, sugar, and honey together until light and whipped on medium-low.
  3. Add each egg, one at a time, and allow to incorporate between each egg
  4. Add buttermilk and extracts
  5. In a separate bowl, measure out all dry ingredients and whisk until combined.  No need to sift, as the meals are coarse and will not sift as beautifully as, say, confectioner's sugar. 
  6. Slowly and gradually add dry ingredients to stand mixer set on low, pausing in thirds to allow to incorporate.
  7. Turn off mixer, use a rubber spatula to mix by hand to ensure mixer did not miss anything
  8. Pour into pan, bake for 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool completely before turning out or decorating

For the frosting:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix butter, sugar, and rose water on medium-high until combined.  Mixture will be dry and crumbly.
  2. Gradually add cream until desired consistency.