The room is dark, our forms lit by the glow of the impossibly large screen. We’re colored blues and grays and the other cool earth tones from the palette of “The Night Of.”
We don’t binge-watch much, and when we do, it’s usually snuggletime. But not now. We’re not touching. I can’t wrap my arm around her, because there is a bushel sack of pinkeye peas between us, and a large bucket for the shells, and a smaller large bucket for the peas. That one weighs, at this point, about 20 pounds.
If I could wrap my hand around her, she’d notice my fingers are all stained bruise-purple (It’s a lovely shade in the light, actually, somewhere between azalea and beet). My right hand, which would give her tired shoulder a squeeze, is itself tired and worn. The index finger toughened with a callus after just three days of shelling.
Despite that sore shoulder and sore hand, despite the aching back that’s so slow in recovering from the injury I gave it splitting last year’s firewood — who knew I even had a sacroiliac joint? — shelling peas is a balm to me. I can grab a pod without even looking, apply pressure near the top, press my thumb in the seam, rake it down, and hear the satisfying clink of the peas in the bowl.
We chase episodes of “The Night Of” with episodes of “Sports Night,” to lighten the mood. Watching “Sports Night” for the first time now, 18 years after its short run, is its own sort of guilty pleasure. Creator and writer Aaron Sorkin was just stretching his legs with the busybody, realistic conversations and walking-while-talking actors, which he’d perfect a few years later in “The West Wing.”
Right now, they can do all the heavy lifting onscreen — John Turturro, Felicity Huffman, Josh Charles, Peter Krause. For me, it’s idle time for a seldom-idle mind.
After we posted a photo of the sack of peas on Instagram, a farmer friend offered to loan us their pea sheller. “You’ll be done in an hour!” she promised.
But who wants that?