The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions. – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Three martinis into the conversation, he accused me of destroying his life. We hadn’t spoken in years and I expected a slightly-awkward, yet friendly, reunion over drinks. I didn’t recognize a ruse to lure me into his trap of condemnation. He spent the last few weeks working on a film in the Czech Republic. While there, he fell hard for a much younger, 19-year old Slavic beauty who didn’t speak a stitch of English. He didn’t know a word of Czech, yet he was certain they had bonded on a level beyond words. She had broken with him that morning upon discovering he was married. It was my fault.
I first met him at a now-defunct 40’s club downtown. We started up a conversation and I found him charming, though not particularly attractive. I sought transparency; we could date, but he wasn’t the only man on my dance card. Our tepid relationship didn’t warrant exclusivity. I wasn’t promiscuous, but there was another man in another city and, rather than cheating, I was offering honesty. He never said, “Let’s be exclusive” and I chose not to notice the paranoia and jealousy overshadowing his judgement. As our relationship progressed, he imagined I was sleeping with all sorts – his friend from the club, a married member of the house band, and every man I chatted up, apparently. We dated about a year and it didn’t end well.
He was seeing someone else, too; an English expat named Jane. He blamed my supposed cruelty towards him for waking his nascent sardonicism towards her. She was the innocent victim of my heartless behavior. He was the conduit, but I was the cause. Around this time, Jane had a run-in with U.S. Immigration and was scheduled for deportation back to jolly ol’ England. In an act of contrition for his unkindness, he agreed to marry her, solving her immigration woes. This wasn’t love, but penitence. They were married at the courthouse on a grey, nondescript day and, after satisfying the immigration requirements, he didn’t ask Jane for a divorce.
Four years pass and I’m sitting across from him, drunk on martinis and bemused by his accusations of my cruelty, which triggered his disregard for another, that morphed into guilt, resulting in a loveless marriage, that didn’t proceed to divorce, prompting his teenage Czech to leave him. She left him…and it’s entirely my fault.
Bublanina Cake (Czech Bubble Cake)
Adapted from easteuropeanfood.com
Makes one 9” cake
|3||Large eggs, divided at room temperature|
|½ c.||Sugar (divided)|
|½ c.||Unsalted butter, softened|
|½ t.||Orange zest|
|1 c.||All-purpose flour|
|2 c.||Fresh fruit (I used blueberries and strawberries)|
Place rack in the center of a 350 degree oven. Butter a 9” springform pan. In a stand mixer, beat egg whites and 2 T. sugar until stiff. In another bowl, cream together yolks, remaining sugar, butter, zest, salt, and vanilla until light and fluffy.
Alternately fold whites and flour into butter mixture, beginning and ending with whites, just until incorporated and trying to keep as much air in whites as possible. Spread batter into prepared pan and scatter fruit evenly over the top. Bake 40-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean and edges are just beginning to brown. Serve warm or cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.