‘That woman is a red pepper,’ was what he said.
‘A red pepper has such a strong flavour, that whatever dish it’s added to is overwhelmed, every subtle flavour supressed, and I have seen this woman often enough to know that every person who encounters her in conversation is, for a moment, totally absorbed by her presence, and while it can be interesting to lose oneself so completely in someone else, it isn’t long before you begin to feel smothered and afraid that you might never re-emerge at all—or, worse, that you will have to re-emerge by force, and because of this force, this obliteration, you will always carry something of her with you, like that one Tupperware container everybody owns, stained with pasta sauce, a sauce made of a dozen ingredients, and yet… smelling only of red peppers.
The nice thing about sharing a bottle of wine with five people is that you can drink a bottle of wine without getting drunk.
The bad thing about sharing a bottle of wine with five people is that you drink a bottle of wine without getting drunk.
She didn’t like to talk about herself unless she trusted the person she was talking to, and even if she did trust them she still didn’t like to talk about herself because she didn’t know how long she would continue to trust this person, and the thought of someone she didn’t trust carrying around pieces of her, moving further and further away from her (as they invariably would if she decided she didn’t trust them), terrified her into silence.
The Dutch grandmother did not like to admit she had missed watching the weather forecast on television in the evening, because if she had missed watching the weather in the evening it was as a result of falling asleep, and she did not want to admit she had fallen asleep. And so, when asked about the weather by her granddaughters, if, indeed, she had missed watching it, she would say, ‘Sunny with some cloud and a chance of rain.’
Over the years, as her granddaughters grew up and moved away, each time a weather station forecasted sun and clouds and a chance of rain all in the same brief window, they would smile to themselves.
‘Oma weather,’ they would say, nodding their heads. ‘An excellent chance of Oma weather today.’
It is strange how things repeat themselves, especially when you’re so certain that they won’t.
Like when you go to the fish and chip shop on a Monday night and find it closed.
‘We’ll remember next time,’ you say to each other, thinking you’ll never forget standing out in the cold, peering through the windows into the empty displays that usually house fresh fish. Your stomach growls as if in confirmation: it is as angry as your brain at your stupidity.
Because this isn’t the first time you’ve done this.
Six months ago, you found yourself outside the fish and chip shop on a Monday. It was late, and you were hungry. ‘We’ll remember next time,’ you all said, ‘for sure.’
But you didn’t.
He tried to remind himself that the process of ageing wasn’t a disease, it wasn’t a contagion— it could not be caught.
And when he couldn’t do this, he tried to think of it as a disease that he had already caught. But it occurred to him that this made ageing a disease which was advancing on him at every second of every day.
Then he tried to tell himself ageing was a disease that everyone had caught. But instead of a feeling of camaraderie, he was faced with a feeling of inevitability, like when you’re driving on a country road and a deer jumps out and you know you’re going to hit it.
So he told himself ageing was a thing like hair growth, it just happened slowly over time and, like with hair, you should treat it all gently. And so he took extra good care of his hair, and was calmed.
She had trouble sleeping and typically didn’t drop off till after midnight but at least when she had fallen asleep, she stayed asleep. This made it all the more infuriating when she was woken by her husband as he tossed and turned because it was warm or a dog was barking, or whatever.
One morning she awoke before dawn to a light, fluttering sensation on her left foot.
When she looked down, she discovered her husband leaning over, tickling her toe with the tip of his index finger.
Later that morning, over brunch with their friends, she said that if she was in a bad mood it was because of the antics of her husband only a few hours prior, and she explained the tickling.
A friend said it could have been worse, he could have bitten her foot, to which everyone laughed heartily.
Another friend said, if a man bites your foot then I think you’re headed for divorce, shooting a look at her own husband who turned bright red and suddenly took a keen interest in the tablecloth.
The laughter, which had been so easy, died away as everyone stared curiously at the husband who continued tracing the pattern on the tablecloth, while his wife picked up a knife, and slowly began buttering her scone.