Remnants of a heartbreak

He ruined a lot of things for me. Peeling garlic was one of them. Every time I ripped that white flaky jacket off the tiny little pods, I would think of the time we cooked dinner together. He couldn’t cook. “I will leave my mom alone when I find a woman who can cook for me,” he would say, parting his lips for that bare-teethed boyish smile of his that made me want to both slap him and kiss him. “You are a mama’s boy,” I would add, disappointed. “Teach me how to cook,” he replied when I informed him that I couldn’t be with a grown man who couldn’t cook.

Somehow, the suggestion frustrated me more. That day we stood in the kitchen, as I measured salt and spices and checked if the pasta was cooked. He peeled and crushed the garlic. He laughed about how this ridiculously meaningless task was so difficult. The pasta was salty but he happily ate it, as I pushed my food around the plate. All my years claiming to be a feminist, I was disappointed that my otherwise great kitchen skills failed me on the day I wanted it to work in my favour. I never cooked for him again.

After we broke up, often I would find myself standing in the kitchen, feeling like I had been hit by an overwhelming sense of loss and loneliness. The decision was mine. When the desire to slap overtook the desire to kiss, I decided that it was best to cut losses and part ways before we hit a point of anger and resentment. Yet, every now and then, the random movements around me, the small daily mundane activities that never held any kind of signifance would remind me of him– his chipped tooth which stood proudly against his bearded smile and his eyes which would carefully fold and crinkle into a crow’s feet.

I could never really enjoy Old Monk after. That’s all he ever drank and he was always drinking. He perpetually tasted like cheap watered down rum and cigarettes. He would buy the little tetrapacks and put them in the pockets of his shorts. “I care about the environment,” he would say. We went to the same shop to buy alcohol and smokes. The shopkeepers quickly picked up on our usual order. They would reach out to on the shelves, as soon as they saw us. The first time I went to the shop without him, they automatically placed his Old Monk tetrapacks and Classic Milds on the store table. I pushed them aside and paid for my Gin and Gold flakes. I averted my eyes, but felt the sympathetic gaze burn holes on my skin.

Today I thought of him again. I was thinking of going to shop to fetch a cigarette for myself. It felt like one of those days that had to end with me blowing some smoke into the air while I twiddled the ends between my fingers, and conjured up stories in my head. I thought about the work involved–putting on pants, a bra, walking the 10 steps, seeing him again. No, not him. The shopkeeper, the one who I skilfully avoided since that day, even if it meant ducking my head as I rushed past his store to get to college. Would he even still remember? When he sees me does he conjure up the image of a 6 feet tall man with a chipped tooth and crinkly eyes? Probably not. But, just in case, “I’ll Dunzo,” I thought to myself.

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