this month's topic for Jaunt is the image below, courtesy of sniffles, with whom the copyright remains.
Salt and Pepper
she sits in the kitchen, perched on a stool and leaning forward onto the bar to wrap her hands around her coffee mug. the honeyed light seeps in through the window, swirling around and gently warming her plants, waking them up to the day. the sun-catchers glow green, blue, amber, purple, turning the salt and pepper shakers into little rainbows. she smiles as she looks at the shakers, wondering what prompted her to take them. no, steal them, really, she chides herself; just call it for what it is. short, glass salt and pepper live quite happily on the shelf by the window these days, but they started out life in a bleak little bistro.
it's not as if she really wanted a souvenier to remember that night. it wasn't bad, just not memorable enough to need a reminder. she had been floundering, trying to find a direction, and had taken to reading the personals in Stuff. they were a little more entertaining than the usual personal, and she had hoped that the literary bent would mean her chances of finding an articulate date, one who could discuss something other than the scores from the Herald sports page, would be better than average. the odds for success were low in any event, as she was really only looking in order to distract herself from larger problems. that hadn't stopped her from perusing each week's offerings and making a few tipsy calls.
one of the men who called her back (she's nicknamed him 'Ralph', for reasons she can't explain and because she's forgotten his real name) seemed to fit the bill. he had a warm, pleasant voice, asked her what she thought of the latest crossfire in the OpEd pages, laughed at her jokes, and asked if he could take her to dinner. she had agreed, and he suggested that they meet at a new place that had just opened in the South End. it had gotten good reviews, and was the newest place for the local foodies to check out. they agreed on a time, and she had looked forward to it for a few days.
there wasn't much to it, in the end. the bistro was a cold, blue space, nothing of welcome about it. her date was about the same. and she spaced out. she had found herself watching the couples around them, then playing with her fork, and eventually staring at the salt and pepper shakers on the table. she had slipped into meditating on spice and savory, how we look for it in so many ways. food is love, spice of life, savor the moment... and then a pregnant pause had snapped her back to the here and now. she realized he'd been talking for some time, and had (apparently) asked for her opinion. 'you're bland.'
the stunned look on his face had made her realize that the internal dialog must have once again escaped. embarrassed, apologizing and fumbling, she had ducked into the powder room. quaint phrase. who powders their nose anymore? she had came back to find the table empty, the bill paid. she slipped the salt and pepper shakers into her pocket and left.
it was an odd impulse. she wasn't sure where it came from just then. her grandmother used to take condiments, would leave a restaurant with her bag tucked full of relish packets and jelly pats. it always struck her as out of character for someone so ladylike until it dawned on her that it was a habit left over from Depression days. and in college, the challenge was to see who could take the most outrageous item from the restaurant. at one point, she had a full set of beer steins, gratis compliments of the five finger discount, and several tea cups from each of the Chinese restaurants an old boyfriend had taken her to. he thought it was sweet to snag the tea cups for her, and she had been touched.
maybe it was an urge to connect to the liveliness of those people, that time, or just to feel something. because she hadn't felt anything in the bistro, had in fact been numb for some time. she had just been running, down any dark street.
now, here, in the morning sun, she reminds herself that 'the unexamined life is not worth living.' wise man, that socrates. life needs spice and zest, she thinks, and then groans inwardly, sheepishly thinking how cliched the sentiment is, but true. she stretches, pads over to the coffee maker to refill her cup, and says a little prayer of thanks for the friends who enliven her days. she suddenly craves a warm kitchen saturated with aromas and love, goes digging for edith's ginger crisp recipe, and calls her mom to invite her over for the afternoon.