She stepped into her small kitchen, which seemed otherworldly in the early winter hours. Sunlight pooled in through the window, its slant rays illuminating the dust particles that waltzed in the air. The refrigerator hummed in the quiet and the birds sang their hearts as the sun warmed their bodies.
She picked up a flamingo pink pot from the shelf next to the window, filled it with water and put it on the stove. The blue flame came on after a series of clicks and she gently put the eggs to a boil. Six minutes and her breakfast would be ready. She put two slices of honey bread in the toaster and went into the bathroom to brush her teeth.
She emerged fresh faced and radiant, like a marble picked up from a slow-moving brook. Her toaster spit out the slices of bread with a start that almost made her jump out of her slippers. She put out ice water for the eggs, which would be ready in a minute.
She turned to the refrigerator and took out some of the butter her mom had made her a week ago. Its thick smell enveloped the air around her and spiralled and leaped across the other corner of the kitchen. It was delicious, with chunks of garlic and herbs that elevated every dish she put it in. After spreading a generous amount of butter on each slice, she took the eggs out and doused them in an ice bath.
It stops the cooking time because six minutes are all you need.
She could hear her mother’s voice. Her slight sarcasm kissing the edges of the sentence, her soft smile tugging at the corners of her mouth and her head nodding at the end in affirmation of the fact.
A smile ghosted her lips at the thought of her mother. She was going to see her for dinner tonight. Their meetings had become less frequent after her father’s passing. His death had stood like the empty kitchen chair and unwatered houseplants which withered more with each passing day. A grim reminder of what they were both missing.
She shook her head with force, as if to knock her thoughts in place and instead focused on the dinner she wanted to make for her mother. After some thought next to the open refrigerator, she landed on grilled salmon with lemon, butter, and parsley with a side of roasted potatoes. Her mother loved having it, with a glass of red wine, of course.
She peeled the eggs and cut them in half, the yolk was cooked enough to not ooze out on the plate, and stared at her like two questioning eyes. She put her buttered toast next to it and made her way to the balcony she shared with the other tenants. It was small, maybe nine feet long and six feet wide, but they had decorated it with lights and plants and a table complete with a set of comfortable chairs. She set her plate on the table and sat on the chair which faced east. The winter sun hit her face and bathed her hair in the rare, warm light. The winter this year was merciful, with fewer storms and warmer mornings; however, the nights could still be cruel. And this made for months, which could be spent grocery shopping in the morning and cocooning in blankets at night.
She took a bite of her toast and egg and closed her eyes, as she tasted her simple breakfast calming her body. It had been ages since she had made breakfast for herself. She had always been an early riser, waking up at the crack of dawn with a mug of coffee had been her way of keeping herself sane. But she had lost that after losing her father. She could still feel those days chipping away pieces of her body, a physical pain that could feel dull and sharp, violent and throbbing, at the same time. Her father had been her cornerstone, her gravity and her anchor. She felt like an astronaut lost in space during the months following his death. And only now she was realising that she hadn’t been alone. Her mother had been there with her, maybe deeper in a darker sorrow. They had been howling silently in the blackness of their grief. And today, she was going to make sure she wasn’t alone.
She ate another bite of bread and egg as she straightened her legs out, placing her feet on the arm of the chair opposite her. There were days when she felt her grief was gone; she was through it and past it, but she would take one look at her ornate wall clock and burst into tears. He was everywhere and nowhere, an omnipresent guardian, telling her to take the next right and park near the lake and fly a kite. Winter had been his favourite season because of the morning sun and evening snow. He would kindle a fire in the fireplace, and they would play silly card games until her mother would feign sleep because she had lost too many times. He would ask her plans for the future, and she would groan in reply and go to her bedroom instead. Oh, if she could turn the hands of her wall clock and tell him that she wanted to create a new genre of art.
Do it then, she could hear her father say, with a conviction stronger than steel, and voice laced with faith and fire.
She was getting better at taking care of herself in the last few weeks. She was washing her dishes and clothes, watering her plants, and reading more often, but cooking without him counted as her first step. Her first step into the cold stream that could wash her away into an ocean of her father’s memories. But she would let it happen. She would let it carry her to a place that seemed like a cove of serenity, an alcove of tranquillity she deserved.
She had started to move on, but she wouldn’t leave him behind. She would let memories of him flood her mind till she was crying her heart out, but she would keep cooking meals with butter and chilli, like her father would have wanted her to.
She picked up her plate and made her way back to her kitchen. After placing it in the sink, she put on a saucepan for tea. Some ginger and a few cardamom seeds were added to boiling water. Tea leaves went in later, and that was followed by milk.
Her cell phone chimed with a notification. Her friends had five tickets for their favourite band’s concert, and they were playing next month. She replied with roughly the same number of exclamation marks and felt something untangle itself in the centre of her chest.
As soon as she sent her message, the tea boiled over the rim and spilled all over the stove and moved like little rivulets seeking a bigger stream. She turned the gas off and placed the saucepan on the counter. She looked skyward in frustration. The sun was up, and so were the heavy winter clouds, which looked like legions of cavalry ready to fire snow. But despite it all, she felt her lips stretch into a smile, which turned into a soft laugh.
She swiped the stove clean and drained the remaining tea into a cup. It was a luscious brown that finished with a hit of ginger in her throat. It was good. It was all good.
Written by Vaishnavi Katiyar for MTTN
Edited by Ishita Sharma for MTTN
Featured Artwork by for Arushi Dar for MTTN