It had been a long day. I didn’t want to cook, so I went for a frozen meal instead. Was that so wrong of me? It was nearly 8—just in time for When Calls the Heart. My stomach growled along to the microwave’s low hum, a wolf calling out to its alpha.
I’m smiling as I recall how the bowl spun back and forth, back and forth, for those six minutes. I was so young, so innocent. It was the last time I was truly happy.
Because now I’m halfway to the table, and this bowl is burning my fucking hands off.
When I put my little ceramic dish in the radioactive box that would’ve made my ancestors cower in abject terror, I didn’t consider the consequences. My only thought was how good my egg soup would be. I forgot that danger and pleasure are just two sides of the same coin.
It’s not that I didn’t know the bowl would be hot, I did. But I thought to myself, “The living room is only so far away, you definitely won’t need a towel to hold it.”
You know who else didn’t grab a towel? Icarus. And look how that turned out for him.
It’s a path I’ve trod hundreds of times, this walk from the microwave to the table. The floorboards below it are faded and worn, like those paths that generations of elephants make in the grasslands. You can hear them creak every two steps.
They’re creaking a lot more as I start upping the pace to the table.
I’m out of the kitchen now, but the hall to the living room seems to stretch on for eons, endlessly lined with photos of times when I wasn’t carrying a hot bowl. I’d like to think there’ll be more of those pictures one day. But that all assumes I make it to the table. And frankly, that isn’t a given anymore.
Oh god. Oh god it burns.
I look down at the bowl and I see my face reflected in the pool of twelve locally-sourced egg yolks. I’m reminded of Narcissus and his pond. I’m also reminded of how Greek I get when I’m stressed. Neither thought brings me comfort.
This happened once before. I tried everything to distract myself on my travels. I thought of the bowl as a fresh snowball between my hands. I considered tossing my bowl onto the table ahead of me, landing it sans spillage with the grace of a renowned bocce player (I do not, unfortunately, possess said grace). But when it came to it, I sat on the floor with it and sobbed like a child who couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time.
This time, I’m toughing it out—even if it burns off my fingerprints. And maybe that’s a silver lining, anyway. Maybe I can be a mastermind criminal, stealing from the rich (Big Microwave) and giving to the poor (me).
I think about the eggs. I try to focus on how good the bowl of unsalted yolks will taste. I feel the spork, so good at getting both the broth and any unthawed chunks, in my pocket. I remember how much I’ve sacrificed—dinners with friends, my nutritionist, a loving husband of seventeen years—just to have this meal night after night.
Though I’ve lost feeling in my hands, I won’t let myself drop it.
It’s amazing, the things you notice when you’re closing in on death. You think about your daughter’s toothy smile. You realize you haven’t felt yourself for the past few weeks. You wonder if there have always been so few surfaces to put hot bowls on between the kitchen and the living room table.
We’ve… made it?
Wow. I must have blacked out there. But the important thing is: we’ve made it to the table.
I think I’ll celebrate by immediately taking a large gulp.