In these moments when the fragile tangle of our love unravels, I retreat from your pain. I continue the patterns that began before we tore ourselves apart. You, you are crying in bed. My words of comfort run dry, and I run away, back to the kitchen where life follows a recipe. The ingredients are combined already, so I have only to stir, and stir. Butter and sugar and egg and flour, cocoa and vanilla and leavening, they combine into this sweet dough. It clings to the metal bowl and licks my fingers, leaving them greasy. The pressure of the fork forces dry and wet together. Dusty dry ingredients try to escape the mixture, but this is my mission, a task I can actually accomplish: I will leave nothing out, allow no imperfection. Stirring is simple, the same gestures over and over.
And you, meanwhile, are asking me questions I cannot answer, those questions that pivot on "should" and "why." I keep stirring. My fingers are only equipped to grasp spoon and fork, not to reknot these tangled threads. Besides, I can only see them when the sun shines just so. How can you ask me to tie things back together?
And you, you ask the dog if she wants to go out, you finish cooking the rice balls, you wash your dishes. Your silence: it is the wish that this web were not so fragile.
The oven finishes preheating, the balls of dough are arranged on the cookie sheets in orderly rows. I know the cookies will come out in perfect circles. The dough melts uniformly, and solidifies where it sank. The cranberries and pecans stand out like boulders in the sea. But cooking proceeds as prescribed, and no one can complain about these circles of sweetness, right? If I do the dishes now, maybe I at least will have played my role right. I wash everything. Watching the soap and sugar swirl down the sink, I wait for the kitchen to be restored to order.