Our Cheese issue launched May 27th at Make and features this piece by Adèle Barclay accompanied by Aimee Young's illustration. A taste of our new issue, here on the web.
More than Cheese
by Adèle Barclay
You were to fly into New York late but your flight was cancelled and your arrival pushed even later. I planned to feed you upon our midnight reunion in my Bushwick sublet. It was October: Canadian Thanksgiving in America. I couldn’t find pumpkin pie that early in autumn. Cheese in America, however, is abundant and cheap. At the grocery store, I selected fresh mozzarella and a buttery gorgonzola out of a plush dairy sea.
Before leaving to meet you at Newark, I looked in the mirror perched on the desk that touched the bed and contemplated not showing up. My heart burned. Bitter, hot blood flushed my cheeks. Abandoning you in a new city would be an exorbitant revenge. Was what you’d done cheating? Maybe not, but you’d lied. The rules were foggy. Still I had the dizzying thought of standing you up. I looked over the balcony and visualized a fall.
I came to the airport and brought you back to my borrowed room. We ate a Brooklyn bodega charcuterie. I came 11 times while you ate my pussy and when we started fucking I lost count. I had to buy extra towels from the dollar store on Knickerbocker Avenue to sop up all the come.
We proceeded like this daily: fucking into the night, sleeping, and fucking until late afternoon, when we rose from bed hungry for savoury things. The fucking made me regress: I was a base of fluids and needs. All I wanted was to fuck, drink water, eat, and press my forehead against yours. One day I took you for pizza at Motorino, under the Williamsburg Bridge. We split a mushroom pizza with white sauce and a sopressata pizza with tomato sauce. I’ve had the same pizza in the same place, since, and it has never tasted as extraordinary as when we ate it for breakfast at 4 p.m.
I don’t know how it is that we associate chocolate with lovers. Chocolate, to me, tastes like childhood: a melted KitKat in my pocket; a waxy Easter bunny; the slow, sugary drip of Nesquik added to warm milk. Then again, I’ve never really had much of a sweet tooth. Cheese, on the other hand, has a funky array of flavours and textures that taste and feel like sex: a soft and filling ricotta, morbier with a streak of volcanic ash running down the middle, halloumi’s recalcitrant firmness when fried, how raclette only comes alive when melted. All those moulds conspire to produce a variety of sweaty, stinky pleasures.
I once read an article that suggested the pleasure derived from cheese operates along similar lines as hard drugs. Dairy contains a protein that, when digested, releases casomorphins—opioids similar to morphine. Cow’s milk contains 10 times more casomorphins than human milk and, since 10 pounds of milk go into each pound of cheese, the concentration of opiates in cheese is further intensified. What I find most compelling about casomorphins in dairy is their suggested function—to encourage the bond between mother and child during feeding.
When I was with you I walked around in a daze from all the orgasms that increased in number and altered in intensity depending on my cycle. Was it oxytocin that made me scratch your head, smell your armpits, crawl into your lap every chance I got? You suggested that maybe I use sex to feel better about myself but I think it’s more that during fucking, good fucking, I enter a higher realm where I exist excessively and yet am rinsed of myself. When we fucked the strength of our connection did away with any fettered sense of self, obliterated my awareness of goodness. We bowed to the space of hot abstraction between two bodies hurling themselves at each other.
Each night we were together I slept with my head on your chest. Back on the West Coast, at your home in Victoria, I shared the pillow of your breasts with your cat, who kneaded your chest and purred as I dozed. For the most part I slept soundly. When I did wake up panicked and scared, not from nightmares but from an amorphous anxiety that has always haunted my sleep, you soothed me, whispering, “I got you” and, “What bad things happened to you?”
When I returned to Victoria from New York in mid-December you picked me up from the airport in your car. Tupperware containers filled with crackers, havarti, and aged cheddar waited for me on the passenger seat. You drove me back to your house. I bathed in salted water while you fed me the cheeses.
Your life is such that for every season of it you adopt a new activity and get really into it: cycling, blues dancing, fucking me, making ice cream. My expression of obsession is more obvious: it’s sprawling, operatic, and messy, while yours is linear, thorough, and task-oriented. I may have been exuberant in my intensity, but I do think I was evenly matched by your quiet drive to love me. Anyway, I’m still figuring out why every time I fall in love it feels dire and conflicted, like being thirsty while craving salt.
Adèle Barclay’s poems have appeared in The Fiddlehead, PRISM international, The Puritan, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Pinch, and others. She is the recipient of the 2016 Lit POP Award for Poetry and the 2016 Walrus Readers’ Choice Award for Poetry. Her debut poetry collection, If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You, (Nightwood, 2016) won the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. She is the Interviews Editor at The Rusty Toque and the 2017 Critic-in-Residence for Canadian Women In Literary Arts.
Aimee Young is an Illustrator and Designer from Melbourne, Australia who now lives in Vancouver, B.C. Since graduating with a degree in Graphic Design & Multimedia in 2008 she has worked on a myriad of projects, designing and illustrating original print and pattern for apparel, editorial, home wares, textiles, stationery and greeting cards, both in Australia and internationally. Her work has been published in IDN Magazine and exhibited as part of Melbourne Arts Club.