I stopped being able to see the art in the situation. The crack down the centre of the table where the two halves came together was always clogged with the leftover crusts of things, clumps of flour and milk, the hardened white sinews from the inside of a pepper. I would tear fingernails trying to dig it out, doing so almost absently in the mornings while she made pancakes or slices of ham or sometimes just peeled fruit with a sharp knife, right on the table, leaving the light translucent spray that comes from lifting the tough skin of an orange.
She hated to shop for groceries. She never said it out loud but I think it had something to do with the fact of money, the tangible, generally negative change that happened to her material worth in the world after paying for a block of nice cheese. How it took the romance out of the thing. She didn’t believe in saying that kind of thing out loud. I came home from work one day in the winter with a bag full of big hunks of white chocolate. I had no intention of eating it and I knew she didn’t like it. It was a small test, I suppose. To see if she could resist something that should have been so sumptuous, resist turning it into something she could hold up, if only to me, and declare through her own culinary grace that this, whatever it was, colourless, malleable, opaque stuff, had romance. Even if neither one of us did. I sat on the floor by the stove, my back against the island and my feet pressing against the dishwasher, while she melted the chocolate in a metal bowl over a pot of water. She wouldn’t tell me what she was doing and I stopped just short of accusing her of having no idea herself what she was making. It probably would have given me away. In the end she made macaroons, searching the baking cupboard and unwrapping open packages of ingredients from their grocery-bag coverings to find the coconut shreds and oatmeal, mixing them into the thick puddle. She coloured it with a pinch of curry powder and cinnamon. Antioxidants, she said, flicking a bit of the brown dust onto me from above. I grabbed her by the ankle and bit her calf, still tense from pressing her weight forward into the stove. She jumped to one side and accidentally flung the wooden spoon out of the pot. It dropped molten clumps of chocolate on the floor and the top of the island and then hit the back wall. Like a baby after a fall, she waited wide-eyed for me to show her what kind of tone we were going to use to move forward. I got up and went over to the wall, sat down again and started to lick the spoon clean. I smiled without looking at her and she started to laugh. She threw her tea towel at me and used her finger to swipe up the drips from the countertop. I just sucked on the wet spoon, grinding bits of coconut between my back teeth.