Thursday, October 8, 2009

Banana soup and pudding

After six months, we had somehow managed to be standing in the same kitchen. In the same house, in the same small town. And still everything had changed.
I was supposed to be on the other side of the world, how did this happen?
Why I was here I did not know.

As I scanned the room that looked awfully familiar to our old kitchen, she was concentrated on cooking, pulling out ingredients every so often from the various cupboards and iceboxes around.
I looked down at the white tiles, confounded, and in turn my stare turned psychopathic.
She offered me banana soup, and my stare transmitted to face her at once.
Banana soup?
And then it hit me, just like it always does. I forget to think, process. I always have to disrupt the silence too quick.
Right. Plantains.
Yes, she nodded slowly, at first with her eyes concerned, scanning mine, and then looking away as passively as she had before.
Perhaps I would like some pudding instead?
Was I suddenly the grandchild? Had she bought pudding for me? Did she know I would not change at all? Did she know our meeting would come to this? She had prepared baby food for me?
Mind interrogation.

Before me on the counter lay packages of crackers. They were kinds I had never seen before, needless to say, everything had to be different.
Naturally I would not recognize the cookie types sold in those organic food stores where she shopped.
No flavor enhancers, no coloring.
Real, natural, but oh-so fake.
I had heard stories of employees there witnessing GRANNY SMITH deliveries from the same farmers as those that delivered to Publix.
And they had to be the ones slapping on the stickers that said organic produce.
What was organic produce anyway?

Those were all thoughts I had in the aftermath. In the actual moment, I envied her for the ingredients on the table.
She was cooking me banana soup for god's sake. She had bought crackers that physically were a cross between papier-mâché and cardboard, and she had slapped them onto the counter like they were toilet paper.

Here I stood, the outcast in the kitchen, the outcast in this town.
I asked her what I could do to help and she interrupted, once again tumbling me over..
Apparently I could start crumbling the gingerbread.

I moved along. Pulling apart the two parts of the package was as irritating as opening a package of electronics from Best Buy. First you tried with your fingers, breaking one or two fingernails as a result.
Then came the search of a close by object, usually a set of keys.
If the situation was unlucky, the key would eventually break off in the desperate attempt.
If not, it would simply slide off the plastic and into the marble, flesh, or lacquer of something fragile.
That would almost always be the point in which the search for a pair of scissors began.
I knew the story before I started.
But that was me. Challenging fate, and hoping every time that I would outnumber my fate.

Apparently the gingerbread manufacturer was using the same packaging agent as Best Buy.
My fingers slid across the plastic several times, fumbling quickly to avoid confrontation about it.
Naturally she saw what was going on.
Two things happened simultaneously as if in slow motion.
Out of the corner of my eye, I felt her glance, moving first to my fingers, then away to that place of emptiness where we all drift off sometimes (I myself, more often than sometimes), and finally headed for the drawer where, of course, the scissors would lay.
It was as if i was watching from outside my body.
I saw her glance sway as her arms triggered a movement for that same target place, of the tool.
I was close now, yet I wasn't making any progress.
The plastic had merely hurt my fingers and I had those cuts everywhere. It would take weeks for them to heal.
I didn't care. I had time.

And then as she slid the red pair of scissors towards me on the counter, I too reached a stop and pulled the two pieces of plastic apart. Crumbs poured out the package in a little fountain-like manner, and my cheeks were warm and probably red.
But I had won.
She looked at me with disbelief and chuckled slightly, turned away and focused on rearranging the contents of the refrigerator.
She was so swift.
I bet she was thinking she had won.
I think we were in different contests.

Here I stood, breaking gingerbread into crumbles. Doing the dirty work.
The process itself, on its own, wasn't so dirty. I was the dirt here.
I was messing everything up.

Had we turned the chores around, I would probably be dropping jars of pickles onto the white tiled floor, splashing preserves everywhere, and bruising her apples.
And she would stand with her neatly-opened-by-red-scissors-gingerbread package with a cookie in her hand,
handling every situation cooly. Easy as pie.

Here I stood, crumbling the gingerbread.
The pieces fell apart naturally, milliseconds before I even managed to touch them it seemed.
Yet another piece of proof that I had swollen fingers.
I didn't have skeletal fingers like she did. Long ones, with diamonds on them.

Instead of producing neat crumbs, the cookies fell apart to powder at my touch.
Not quite the same as the fountain of crumbs I had produced before- a little coarser.
I was certain I wouldn't be able to hide the evidence in the mix. She would see that the crumbs, (sorry, powder), was of a different size, a different quality

And she would sigh with her eyes and look away.

I meant nothing to her anymore.

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