The choice of what to take, what to leave—it was excruciating, trying to figure out what went in the box(es). In the end, it was essentially arbitrary, because I tried to be fair and leave my husband things he could use or might have some attachment to—yet. I had to be fair to myself—take the things that I’d bought or were mine or were things that damnit, I wanted or just would use more– because we weren’t talking about it, and wasn’t that the crux of the problem, afraid to ask, afraid to answer, and not understanding even when words did make it out into the air? I felt ground down, crushed by all the decisions I’d made and would have yet to make in the future once I’d moved out, once that part of the leaving was done—but still, I had to figure out—which wine glasses to leave? Which ones to keep?
I did the dishes as I waited for my little brother to arrive with the truck. I’ve no idea why—probably to stave off the sobbing that began as I stood on the sidewalk and regarded the way all my things, whittled down, hardly filled up U-Haul’s smallest—I lost it when there were only four boxes left still to load, and my poor brother, he tries, but emotions? He deals with them differently than I do, and his back patting was awkward for both of us, though he knew I needed his sweaty hug at the moment. Before, though, I was washing the dishes and staving off crying at the ridiculous thing I noted at the edge of my vision—the microwave read “End,” a punch to the chest. I’d never noticed that ever before, not in the years—years—that we’d owned the thing. Dishes were always his job, since I did the large part of the cooking and shopping, and if I’d ever registered what the microwave gave as a final message upon completing its nuclear task, it wasn’t ‘til now that I saw. Understood. Knew.
It was ending. Really.
I looked around what had once been my kitchen—and now would no longer be, though maybe there’d be a conversation later on about the butcher block, a gift from my dad when we first started out, but it wasn’t like I had someplace to put it and loading it up, that would be spiteful—and no. I hadn’t missed anything.
My pepper grinder, the blonde one, the tall one, the one my dad gave me when I got my first apartment, moved out of my Mom’s house and started law school and we went to the Crate and Barrel at the Chestnut Hill Mall because a girl’s got to have freshly ground pepper in her trousseau—it sat in its place next to the stove. It was the first of many knives, pots and pans I got over the years—and I packed most, though not all of them back up when I moved.
I’d thought to leave it—a gesture, I don’t know of what, maybe just that he’d need to grind some pepper, it’s not like there weren’t other Lucite grinders in the house— but in the end, no matter how much I’d changed, how much I still am planning on changing, that one blonde oversized pepper grinder has seen me through more microwaves, more ends and beginnings, since I started to try to be an adult. I grabbed it. Held it. Put it in a bag of odds and ends and distinctly thought to myself—fuck it. It’s my pepper grinder, part of who I am, that cooking thing that sometimes I do when I can get up the interest, not be so wrapped in my head that I can’t express my interest, my love for others by melting some butter, heating a pan, chopping some onions, seasoning to taste.
Pepper is one of the oldest and most frequently used of all spices, right up there with salt. It heightens flavors, but it also preserves. Every time I look at my grinder on top of the shelf over my Dad’s gas range, much less use it to add spice to some dish—I’ll remember. Middles and endings, but also—beginnings.
Season to taste.
I think that I will.