Her kitchen was a nightmare, Tolkien style.
Saruman’s tower occupied this odd little nook, South of the sink. A near pointless corner only leaving about three square centimetres for plates – which she stacked willy-nilly, in a permanent protest against washing up without the help of the dishwasher. That wasn’t the worst of it, though. The Shire was set in the one tidy space, between the sink and the hob, towered over by the kettle and not one but two French cafetieres. The one tranquil stretch of worktop before all hell was let loose at the gates of Mordor, to the North of the ceramic burners. A sheer pile of horror, all but impossible to navigate, Sauron’s eye blinking in the corner, on top of the microwave. No chance any Hobbit was melting down jewellery in that hideous mess and woe betide anyone who went in search of stock cubes.
But it was down on the floor, back against the under cupboard sink, you would find her on leaving day. Elbows resting on her knees, chin in her palms. Staring at the vegetable rack, onions in the full glare as her bottom lip quivered. She hated it when the time came for me to go home. She just had a funny way of showing it. But this is how people are. Each of us with our own little foibles built from breakages and debris.
I’m no different and, before I tell you something important about the girl who stared at onions, I need to tell you something about me.
I hate people. Not certain sections of society, not specific people. I hate all people. Because, at some point, there is a solid chance they will set fire to you, having made themselves a little space in your soul. Sometimes it’s accidental, I mean we’ve all cracked some eggs to make a protein drink, right? But other times these bastards do it on purpose. They know they’re going to do it and they can’t stop themselves. People are nothing more than incendiary devices sent out into the world to torch each other. So while she would sit and stare at onions, I would be getting ready to flee back to my grim fortress of solitude because the idea I’d invited her in scared the living shit out of me.
It turns out she’d get all confrontational with the vegetable rack because she wasn’t upset with herself, nor with me. She just didn’t want to be left again. On the other hand, I used to get ready to leg it because I didn’t want to go, I was just scared of staying because the fire would be immense.
It’s funny how it happened, in the end. I just plonked myself down next to her and said ‘Don’t burn me, I love you.’
‘I’m only staring over here because I love you. I want you to stay and don’t know how to make it happen.’
Scary thing, love. But we made it work perfectly.