If I’d just pointed to something green, we could have moved on. It was the most important question ever asked. Someone should have built a carnival tent around it. Step right up, folks, ten cents gets you an answer. Arugula? Asparagus?
“Right here. All the greens a girl could want,” you said.
I stood there holding the basket.
“Asparagus, then,” you said. You planned to braise it. Broast it. Something. “Maybe we’ll get out the pasta maker!” You said it like we were renting paddleboats in France.
I put on weight, real butter in everything, weekend breakfasts bleeding into lunch, dinner, back into breakfast, with homemade lattes, omelets with morels and prosciutto, the day half gone before it started. I started running to counteract the fat. You recommended swimming because running was like jackhammering the joints. Fine in your thirties, but after that.
I filed that with the other things you knew about. You did important things all day, economist business. I noodled at the paper, chewing my hair over that one typo that got through. Pubic sector adds jobs. You had price elasticity, the Federal Reserve.
In December, your Danish relatives loomed. You filled a storm cellar with edibles and potables, snaps, marzipan, pickled herring. The time scraps you had—you talked about time like a bubble shrinking around you; if you could get your ducks in a row, you’d start making progress, maybe write that book—turned into Scandinavian delicacies.
“Use the whisk. Klejner are supposed to be light!”
You were afraid of your guests, who were getting on planes, about to influx. You forgot supplies for the glogg, the ingredients weren’t combining, not enough places for people to sit, oh, God, the Danes. Maybe we could bring some chairs over from my house, you wondered, forgetting.
We’d have come around to it eventually, the girl who let perfectly good crimini go bad, sitting next to the mother from Copenhagen, who was better and would poke. Do you like food as much as we do?
“Don’t be like that,” you said.
It was the children, who hadn’t met me, whose heads would have burst at the thought of me. I knew if I took the whisk and shook the yellow batter all over you I’d be all right, but I didn’t.
You called on a Thursday night: the single fatherhood, the time you couldn’t cull from your days. That jazz. You had a whole chicken in the fridge that wasn’t going to dismember itself.
“Say it to my fucking face, Kash,” I said.
When you showed up with scarlet eyeballs, looking like shit, I had to concede this wasn’t easy for you either. I was the person you loved. You shrugged when you said it, a moot point you couldn’t unmoot. You’d tried. The cast iron skillet, bought for when you cooked over here, made a gunmetal dent in the wall.
“Maybe in a few months, if I can get my ducks in a row,” you said.
I heated a frozen pizza, which you ate without comment. I took that as an apology, which it wasn’t.
E-mail is the best way to tell people things that will kill them. It’s fast and touch-free, like an automatic car wash, and nobody has to dodge skillets.
“Look, I’ve met someone.”
Time was pooling around your ankles, parental responsibilities loosening up. You were lousy with hours. A new woman, laid out on the Iranian carpet you bought in Asheville, which you hadn’t counted on having to tote around, which you rolled up and threw over your shoulder. Fuck it. I said, I feel like we’re in an independent film, and you laughed. Our grandchildren would know that carpet because it came at the beginning.
“It’s only been a month. What can change in a month?” I wrote. That bullshit about the ducks.
A few lines were enough, in your economy. You weighed cost against return, like at work, and did whatever was cheapest.
“I only want the best for you.”
If you’d looked at me, there’d have been hell to pay.
The tarot woman made this sort-of joke, probably the same one to everybody who came in:
“The trouble with letting go is the person’s usually been gone for weeks.” She put a card down and made a sucked-on-a-lemon face, swirled her finger over it. “Don’t let that back in your house,” she said, meaning you.
She sent me home with some little charcoal discs to burn, to drive away evil spirits, no charge because I said I didn’t believe in that stuff. I burned them all, you being a tricky devil, one hand waving, look, over here, the other searching quietly with its fingers for a wet vulnerability in the chest, a kind of romantic legerdemain; finding the spot, you pulled out the needed things, sex, love, something to feed. The remainders, the blood and pulp that bummed a ride on the way out of me, went into a box with some books and whatnot.
The last time I saw you, you carried the box in by its flaps, dropping it by the fireplace. The business of leaving me was a hectic affair, you could only stay a second. You weren’t thinking about the stuff in the box, things you’d decided you could live without, by which I mean my heart.
I found the box in a closet. The heart was squashed under a copy of Lolita, whose back you’d broken folding the pages back, and it had a skin on it, as though it had been left outside. I rinsed it like an artichoke and dropped it into a pan with onions and garlic because I saw you do that once. Cornish hen? Calf brain? I turned it over and over with tongs, and when I was sure it had cooked all the way through, I put it in a Tupperware dish and stuck it in the fridge, where it would keep.
Emily Koon is a fiction writer from North Carolina. She has work in Midway Journal, Portland Review, Atticus Review and other places and is the winner of The Conium Review 2015 Innovative Fiction Contest. She can be found at twitter.com/thebookdress.
“And then there’s those other things which for several reasons we won’t mention” first appeared in Juked.