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Sativa Peterson and The Great Kitchen

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Chow Bella has a valentine for you. For the rest of February, we're handing out Candy Hearts -- stories of food and love from some of our favorite writers. Enjoy.

What a great kitchen. I'm browsing one of those design websites, where you can see photos taken inside a couple's home. Slightly voyeuristic, the text tells you how long the couple have lived in their place together, what their decorating style is, where they shop, and where they picked up all the quirky things that pull it all together.

This kitchen -- it's painted green, a greenish-turquoise, it has floor to ceiling shelves on a wall just left of the kitchen table, and there are a trio of golden flaky croissants sitting idly on a cutting board. I want to see more. I scroll my mouse over the link and click.

See also: - Deborah Sussman's Care Package - Honey-Glazed Bee Hive Cake: Monday Night Martha

Holy shit! Is that Alex? I say to myself when I see the next photo. It looks like an ex-boyfriend of mine. Don't tell me this is his kitchen. I take a closer look. Yep, that's him, without a doubt.

Alex was the last boyfriend I had before I met my current one, who I've been with for nearly a decade. There he is sitting with a pretty blonde woman looking cozy. When I knew him, we neither one had a home. We were both sort of displaced. I was living with my godfather in Oakland, and he, well he was a cancer survivor, but it was too recent a status for him to trust in the longevity of a mortgage, or even a lease.

I'm a little stunned seeing him, and captivated, clicking through images of the interior of their home. Taking in its 900 square feet and its Turkish tub.

He's cleverly converted the garage into an extra room and closet for his wife, and she says something like, Can you believe a man who builds you your own closet?

Seeing inside their home is kind of intimate and, in this case, I can't help thinking it's like getting to see some road not taken. (Albeit one professionally photographed and staged. One without mail delivery apparently, or dust bunnies, or clutter. )

When I met Alex, I had just filed divorce papers, walking away from an ill-fated marriage that had shaken my confidence. I'd just started my thirties. (I'd probably had no business getting into that marriage in the first place. The fact that I had, and that I'd made a poor choice, left me wondering if I would always pick bad men) I felt awful. To fix this, I tagged along on a last minute trip to LA with a girlfriend.

Alex was her friend, and he was more than happy to let an extra house guest stay at his place (which he was subletting).

The next morning my friend had an obligation to have lunch with friends of her parents. I said I'd entertain myself. But we could see Alex in the carport tinkering with his motorcycle. We stared at him out the window in the living room. What's he doing? Why is he cutting a sheepskin? As it turned out -- it was to cushion my butt if I was interested in going for a ride.

We rode through Hollywood out to Santa Monica, then north along the coast. On the highway, holding on to the back of a kind stranger, I felt like cobwebs were being blown from my head, up and away, over the ocean. It was the first sign that I was going to be ok, you know, eventually.

The relationship, that started between us a month later, didn't last the summer. But it ended well, both of us in a different place than where we started.

When my next relationship came around I was probably no better prepared. Or maybe I was. But for whatever combination of circumstances, it had more permanence.

When I moved in with Liam, into an unfinished loft space in a former candy-factory in Brooklyn, one of the first things he did, while my belongings were still in boxes, was build me a closet.

I was surprised when I saw Alex sitting with his wife, and not because I don't wish him the best, but because, I guess, I wish it for myself too. Does my life look like that house tour? I wish for the wind to blow through my hair and untangle all the complicated reflections of my life. I say kudos on the green kitchen.

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