When You Aren’t Here
I’ll cook breaded chicken as you did for me for fifty years. I’ll buy the same Progresso Italian-style breadcrumbs in the blue cylindrical box. I’ll crack the eggs on the side of the bowl and whisk them with a fork. Then dip the chicken in the eggs and crumbs. When I fry up the meat, the kitchen will smell like childhood.
When I want to talk to you, I’ll read your round cursive scrawl on the chocolate chip cookie recipe on my counter. I’ll cream a Crisco stick with sugar, add eggs and vanilla. And then salt, baking soda, chocolate chips, and flour. I’ll hear the whirr of your hand mixer, of you saying you shouldn’t eat the raw cookie dough, then eating it anyway. I’ll bake the cookies for ten minutes at 350 degrees.
When I go out, I’ll spritz L’Air du Temps on my wrist, like you did when you were young, going out to a Black-tie dinner with Daddy, right after you complained about your tight stockings and about your dress not fitting. I’ll smell like France and maybe I’ll feel peace like the white doves on its golden box.
When I want to celebrate Thanksgiving with you, I’ll fry up onions in oil, crumble up a loaf of Wonder Bread, season it with thyme, sage, savory. I’ll pour it together and mash it with my fingers into a ball of dressing. I’ll bake it in a separate, disposable pan, away from the turkey, so we don’t get Salmonella. I’ll cover the turkey with a Crisco-greased paper bag like you did and hope everything doesn’t go on fire.
I’ll wash fresh cranberries one by one, tedious just like you say. I’ll pour in four cups of sugar when they’re boiling. Then I’ll dab the ruby red sweetness on the turkey, potatoes, and your favorite, honey-roasted root vegetables.
If I want to be with you, I’ll make your meat sauce on the stove. I’ll sauté the onions and garlic and then add the ground turkey. I’ll put in tomato paste, tomato sauce, oregano, basil and parsley. I’ll leave it to simmer in the Crock Pot so I can go to the grocery store or the doctor. I’ll let the scent invade my kitchen for a while.
I’ll try and forget where you are when I come through the door again. I’ll welcome you to my house, a place you’ve been coming for twenty years, but no longer do. If I pretend, it will make me feel like I’m walking back into our home again.
Susie Aybar received a BA in Psychology from Duke University, a BSN from Northeastern University, and a MFA in creative writing from Manhattanville College. Her flash fiction can be found in FlashFlood Journal and Tiny Molecules. Her essays and poetry have appeared in The London Reader, Literary Mama, Green Ink Poetry, and The Speckled Trout Review. Her work is forthcoming in San Pedro River Review. Her flash piece, "Souvenirs" is nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best Microfiction this year. She lives in North Salem, New York with her husband and three sons.
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