'The List'


Jeannie Mark



My hands travel the boxes like excited ants while my half closed eyes survey the choices. Wheatbix, too grainy. Oatmeal, too hot. Life, the perfect combination of crunchy and tasty. I go to sit down at the table, moving the misplaced chairs back into position. The cold linoleum cools the coals of my feet fresh from a steaming shower. My nose sucks it in. There it is, the suffocating linger of his aftershave. It hangs in the air like a cobweb. My fingers itch to brush away the smell, hovering under the hairs of my nose. I stuff a spoonful of cereal in my mouth, ignoring the cold steel crashing against my teeth.

Groceries. That's right. I have to make a list of groceries that we need. Shopping week to week tends to become hazy. Our jobs fill the bulk of our lives to the point where there isn't room for trivialities like milk or celery. I must sharpen my senses to the task at hand, for coffee is calling to my foggy head. I feel the smooth lines of the coffee maker. I picture him scanning the various models when finally his crisp blue eyes rest on just one. He was so excited, so joyous to find this appliance that we could actually buy together. It was the symbol of our relationship. The crowning cup we could hold up together in triumph of love, sex and friendship. A 2000 Black and Decker coffeemaker with automatic timer and 10 cup capacity. He tugged at my sleeve, whispering in my ear, much like he does when he desires sex.

"Isn't it a gorgeous piece of equipment? Let's get it. It would be perfect for our new place."

His seductive words sank into me, quickening my heart a few beats. It was perfect. The sleek look of the coffeemaker would make a stupendous addition to our little kitchen. I got excited, he got excited and we raced to the checkout counter with our purchase in tow. We drove home in a furious pace and proceeded to make love like feverish teenagers on the kitchen floor. The coffeemaker remained in its bag on the table. We banged against each other until a tiny explosion detonated between us. I vividly remember the way his large hands would grip my thighs. I loved his aftershave then, I would suck it in so deeply every time my arms enveloped him. Afterward, I sighed into the salty taste of his skin.

My vision goes sideways as the toaster materializes in front of me. Our toaster. Our knife rack. Groceries. Of course, I must decide on a list before heading to work. The fridge is definitely empty. Eggs, bacon, bread, cheese, suitcase.

I gulp the sooty coffee poured from the bottom of the pot. Symbiosis. Such a foreign concept. We use to make love in the wee hours of the day and whisper secrets to each other as the dawn approached. Milk, pasta, olives, tote bag.

His touch leaves me cold. I'm glad to hear him get up before me. I'm aware of every movement he makes in the bathroom. The repetitive ritual of combing, brushing, showering and dressing. Before I even open my eyes I listen for the familiar sound of the door closing. Then silence. Orange juice, cereal, salt, extra car keys.

I see his unwashed dishes in the sink and I want to smash them into splinters. Grind the pieces with the centre of my foot into the floral linoleum pattern I picked out with such care. Angry words cram my mouth before I sputter them out into the eager air. I see the gaping hole between us. I know he's been gripping someone else's thighs on some other kitchen floor. To form an image horrifies me.

The roar of the garbage truck below brings me back. Ten to seven. It's getting late. The cold slap of everyday life jolts me and I set my mind to cleaning the dirty dishes in the sink. But the gaping hole stares at me. Me on one side, he on the other. I realize if I must hear his voice again, I would rather it be from a dim part of my memory. I head for the bathroom, but stop at the threshold. The list. I must make a list before I leave the kitchen. I grab a pen from the counter and a snippet of scrap paper. Cabbage, peas, celery, and finally I'm leaving you.