All the vegetables were lined up on the tile counter. Peppers. Onions. Mushrooms. There was oil heating up in the pan. Her favorite song was playing on Spotify. Everything was ready, perfect…
Oh, except she hasn’t poured herself a glass of wine yet. She put down the knife and uncorked a bottle and poured it into a glass. She took a sip and it tasted good. It was a dark color of red that immediately stained her lips. She heard the oil sizzling behind her. Shit! She still had to cut the peppers and onion. Her timing was crap, wasn’t it? Always has been.
She took another sip to calm down. Now, where did she put the damn knife? Her head swiveled, searching for it, bobbing around like a broken Pez dispenser. The oil was now burning, a braid of smoke staining the ceiling a brindle color. She turned the stove down, looked for the knife, found it on the bar. She breathed in, trying to keep control. Her favorite song was over. It was a song by Loretta Lynn. One of those tragically beautiful songs about loving a man who is up to no good. Her cat strolled into the kitchen, peered up at her, squinting, then turned around and walked back out, indifferent.
As a slow burning sensation rose in her chest, she reminded herself that all you can do in this life is take things as they come, don’t rush. Another sip. She picked up a green pepper and cut it in half and scooped out the tiny seeds. Seeing them spill out made her stop what she was doing and put the knife down. How many future peppers could come from just one pepper? A million? A billion? She knew this was an exaggeration, but it made her feel better, anyway — like when somebody says ‘I love you more than you’ll ever know,’ when you know they don’t love you at all.
There was just a finger of wine left, she finished it off and poured another one, this one all the way to the rim. She looked at the clock, calculating how long until he was supposed to arrive, then figured she had to put on the meat soon. Where was the meat? Shit! It was still in the fridge. Now she’d have to put it in the microwave to defrost. How could she forget such a basic step? It’s not like making fajitas is hard. Why was she making fajitas anyway? He told her they needed to talk, not eat Mexican food.
She pulled out the ground beef, threw it on a plate and shoved it in the microwave, took a gulp of wine, and then started to chop the onion, whacking down hard on it so that the pieces went flying off the cutting board. Bam. Bam. Bam. “What’s the point of making a man dinner, if he’s just going to storm in and change everything out from under you?” She mumbled quietly. A hot rage ignited inside her, made her see red. “And I hate fucking mushrooms!” She screamed.
She picked up the small pile of white porcini mushrooms and dumped them in the trash can, then slammed the lid. She put her hand to her chest, struggling to catch her breath. It was happening again. The locomotive of anger was speeding out of control. At this point she gave in, realizing there was no point in trying to hold it back. She unfurled a ragged banner of profanity that would make Sam Kinnison suggest she tone it down. “Fuck him! Fuck him! Fuck him! Fuck his fuck-face! Fuck his small fuck-dick and his shit-fuck tattoo, and his mother and his stuck-up cunt-sister. Fuck them all!”
The tirade exhausted her. She stood in the kitchen, leaning over the counter, panting. A tear exploded out of her eye, bouncing off the tip of her nose like a snowboarder on a half-pipe, and plopped down on the cutting board next to the onions, followed by a series of even larger tears. A gushing stream of salty rivulets eroding away her cheeks created the world’s largest tear delta. She was heaving, gasping and choking, exorcising the demons of every heartache and disappointment in her young, fragile, fucked-up life when there was a knock on the door. Three masculine raps upon wood. Bang. Bang. Bang.
She steeled herself, wiped her face, and picked up the knife. She held the rubber handle in her hand and analyzed the steel blade, twisting it around so that it caught the light and reflected it about the kitchen like a disco ball. Was she always going to be the victim? She asked herself. Was she always going to let men hurt her?
He knocked again and called her name through the door. She inspected her face in the reflection from the blade, her eyes heavy and lupine, then took the knife with her.
Just before opening the door she swept her bangs to the side and managed a smile. “Hello, darling,” she chimed.
“Hey,” he said, a bottle of cheap wine in the crook of his arm. Just like him to bring two-buck chuck. Cheap motherfucker! He deserved everything coming to him, she thought.
He was dressed in jeans and a denim shirt unbuttoned to his chest. His face was slightly unshaven.
The oil was still burning in the pan.
When you stop and think about it, we’re always at the furthest edge of our lives: always as old as we’ve ever been, always as young as we’ll ever be again. We’re forever on the boundary of what was and what will be. The precipice of everything, and nothing, at the same time.
He gave her a one-armed hug, then kept his hand gently on her shoulder “Have you been crying?” He asked her.
A seedling of a smile sprouted on her cheeks. “No, it’s just the onions,” she told him, and stepped aside so he could enter.