Home videos show my brother Jason and me marching around the house as children, singing. Jason was always up for my antics so we built Noah’s Arc out of laundry baskets after Sunday school, luged down a hill of pillows with pillows taped to our backs while watching the winter Olympics, and performed self-written plays for my parents, with me as the lead and Jason as back up. We were an inseparable duo, Jason always following in my stead, me watching out for him when we encountered big sets of stairs or muddy patches of grass.
In my first memory, though, I’m biting my brother. My family is driving somewhere in our Dodge Caravan and Jason is in his car seat. He’s maybe 1 year old and I am a feisty 3.5 years old, uncertain about having someone else to share the limelight with. Jason is a chill kid, happy to sing to himself, play a harmonica and eat. He sleeps long hours and rarely cries. I, on the other hand, am precocious and full of energy. I like to make crafts and I tend to yell when I need things.
I vividly remember looking at Jason and feeling a surge of annoyance mixed with wonderment. I lean over and before I can think about it, I place my mouth on his upper arm and bite down, hard.
I remember a startled silence, followed by Jason’s scream. My mom’s shocked face, peering over the front seat. My dad pulling over the car to reprimand me. Jason’s tiny eyes, staring at me in confusion. My little brain working overtime to figure out what I’ve done and why.
20 years later, Jason and I are on a beach in Barcelona, sharing a bottle of wine in the darkness, waves lapping at the sand. We’re halfway through a month-long backpacking trip in Europe. I’ve already traveled around the globe in an attempt to unravel my childhood demons, in an attempt to understand why the pressures of adulthood make me feel flat. Jason is at the cusp of adulthood, wondering what to do next and confused about who to be. This trip is meant to show him that the world is big, that options are infinite, that people are the same in most places. I’m meant to be the tour guide, the one who shows him the things I have yet to figure out myself.
In this way, it is the same as it always was for us: I watch out for him at every turn and he follows me anywhere. And yet in so many ways it is different this time. This time, he teaches me to soften into the experience. This time, he makes decisions about where we’ll go and what we’ll eat and what we’ll see. This time, his observations about art and people astound me. And this time I see that maybe in his slowness to decide about what he wants to do with his life, he’s already learned something that the rest of us have been missing all along: that there is no finish line and we never actually get “there.” Where is “there” anyway?
During this month-long trip, I see many times that same look in Jason’s eyes that he had when I bit him, a look of confusion about how life works wrapped in the knowledge that neither of us are going anywhere. We know each other’s darkest demons in a way that only your blood can, in a way that brought us to that darkened beach together, far away from home, sharing a bottle of wine and musing about our shared childhood. We know each other in that way, deep to our cores, that makes me feel like I’m never actually alone.
Eggs in Purgatory
Or “Simple Backpacker’s Food.” Serves 2.
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 yellow onion, minced
- 1 can of tomato sauce (store-bought is fine, but go for something fancy with extra herbs and garlic)
- 1/2 baguette or 2 large pitas
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Optional: herbs (oregano, basil, thyme)
Preheat oven to broil. In a castiron skillet (or another oven-safe pan), saute onion with a dash of olive oil. When the onion is translucent, add the tomato sauce to make a layer about 1.5 inches deep (you may not need the whole jar — I only used 3/4 of mine). Carve out four valleys in the sauce and crack an egg into each open spot, then slide the pan into the oven.
Crusty bread is the best for dipping with a recipe like this, so grab a baguette or pita and cut them into chinks, then slide those into the oven, too.
Watch your oven closely, as the cook time really depends on your particular oven. You should remove the pan from the oven when the eggs are set (the clear parts will turn white; the yolk will turn orange and look more solid). That took 6 minutes in my oven, and my pita pieces only needed 2 minutes in the oven before they were toasted nicely.
Once it’s done, garnish with parmesan cheese and any dried herbs you have on hand (oregano, basil or thyme work well). To serve, scoop two eggs into a bowl with the surrounding sauce and cheese. Then spoon that mixture onto a baguette or scoop up the sauce with pita, and enjoy!