Dealing with kitchen ghosts
THURSDAY, December 10 – This is something only one person can decide. Jennifer. And no one else. In any case, not this afternoon and not all on my own. I really, really didn’t want to have to do this, but I had no choice. The question needed to be answered. What color counter top did I want in the kitchen? The salesman was waiting for my answer. How am I supposed to know? And besides, I couldn’t care less. Fuck off!
The doors were called Ivory or something. Never knew there were that many different shades of white. I’m your typical husband, who pretends to be interested and involved, and can even discuss the pros and cons with a quasi-practiced eye despite the fact that I haven’t a clue.
‘What color is the counter top in your present house?’ the salesman asks, giving it another try. I had no idea. It’s the sort of thing I don’t notice. Like curtains. I simply have no opinion. All I know is that they hang and you can open and close them. Same goes for the counter top. You use it to prepare meals. But what color you want it to be…? Pfff.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one person who can decide and she’s dead. It’s a good thing Jennifer and I had already decided on the type of kitchen we wanted. We had even made an appointment for Saturday October 24th, to discuss the details: door knobs, type of oven, dishwasher and fridge. And the counter top.
Jenn was a bit annoyed with me after our first visit. ‘This is something we have to do together,’ she said firmly. ‘Shopping around and coming to a decision. Together, you and me.’ She was right, of course. The renovation of the new apartment was a gigantic project. Almost everything had to be replaced and Jennifer couldn’t do it all by herself.
Now I’m the one who has to do it all by himself. We didn’t make the original Saturday morning appointment. The salesman had called to find out why we hadn’t showed up. I had no desire to explain that my wife had just been declared brain-dead. This afternoon I walked into the store and brought him up to date. The man almost went into shock and promised that he’d see to it that everything was according to my wishes.
Did I want a large combi-oven? Yes, of course, I thought, since Jenn loved making pies. Did I want a high or low counter? Well, not too high, since that would be awkward for Jenn. Automatically and unconsciously, the choice of each detail was linked to her presence in her domain: the kitchen.
The other day Sander said, ‘You know, sometimes when I hear you fixing dinner in the kitchen, I think that any minute Mom is going to walk into the dining room.’ Then he sees me. A big reality check. He’s said a couple of times that I’m not doing too badly; but, by now he’s familiar with my entire culinary repertoire which he recites in a drone: pasta, string beans, new potatoes, pizza, spicy tofu, salads.
Wouldn’t I like to try something different, my son suggests. Earlier this year, on Mother’s Day, I’d resolved to do just that. One of Jennifer’s presents was a book called The Fat Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, and I promised her that every weekend I’d try out one of his recipes. I even managed to keep my word, until recently. But right now I’m happy if I manage to produce something warm and nourishing around six o’clock.
Jenn was a fabulous cook, and that’s what had always kept me out of the kitchen. She referred to this as a shitty excuse. She was right and things are different now: The kitchen has been ordered and it’s my duty to reinvent myself as culinary wonder.
Anyway, there’s no need for me to worry about the color of the counter top, the salesman assures me. I am welcome to bring a friend along next week to have another look and, if I so choose, to change the color. But there’s only one person who could and should have done that, and I was seriously irked that she was no longer there to do just that: make a decision.