When I left William, I did not take the money he offered me, or the money the law said was mine. In truth, I didn’t feel I deserved it. I wanted only for my daughters to have enough and that was agreed upon right away, that they would have enough. I also felt uncomfortable about where the money came from. I could not stop thinking the word: Nazi. And for myself, I didn’t care about having the money. Also I had made money — What writer makes money? But I had made money and I was making more, and so I didn’t think I should have William’s money. But when I say “And for myself, I didn’t care,” I mean this: that to be raised the way I was, with so little — only the inside of my head to call my own — I did not require much. Someone else raised in my circumstances would have wanted more, and I didn’t care — I say I didn’t care — and yet I happened to get money because of the luck I had with my writing. I think of my mother in the hospital saying that money had not helped Elvis or Mississippi Mary. But I know that money is a big thing, in a marriage, in a life, money is power, I do know that. No matter what I say, or what anyone says, money is power.
This is not the story of my marriage; I have said that I cannot write the story of my marriage. But sometimes I think about what first husbands know. I married William when I was twenty years old. I wanted to cook him meals. I bought a magazine that had fancy recipes, and I gathered the ingredients. William passed through the kitchen one evening and looked at what was in the frying pan on the stove, then he came through the kitchen again. “Button,” he said, “what’s this?” I said it was garlic. I said the recipe called for a clove of garlic to be saut'eed in olive oil. With gentleness he explained that this was a bulb of garlic, and that it needed to be peeled and opened into the cloves. I can picture the unpeeled big bulb of garlic now — so clearly — sitting in the middle of the olive oil in the frying pan.
I stopped trying to cook once the girls came along. I could cook a chicken, get them a yellow vegetable every so often, but in truth, food never has held much appeal for me as it does for so many people in this city. My husband’s wife loves to cook. My former husband, is what I mean. His wife loves to cook.