7 comments

Drama

He took all his stuff with him, except the Le Creuset. I start filling it with water and immediately realize I don't know what I'm doing. Do I fill it up completely or do I put only as much as I'm gonna drink? I'm not really a tea kind of girl. He was the tea guy, through and through. Because of him, I know tea bags are for losers: the right way of making tea is with loose leaves. You can use an infuser, the best one is probably the basket infuser. Tea ball infusers and silicone infusers are fine too, even a french press — if you're into that.

I turn on the stove, using the largest possible flame. To reiterate: I don't know what I'm doing. I'm using a teabag.

Why didn't Josh take the Le Creuset? I got it for him last year, it was our three-year anniversary. I spent over a hundred dollars on this tea kettle, and he didn't take it. I'm standing in front of the stove, feeling the warmth of the flames, staring over the counter to the living room and, although most things are still there, the apartment feels empty. He took his office chair, a couple of pictures from the walls, and the rug we bought together. I liked the rug. I told him he could take anything, that I didn't care. I guess I was wrong.

He didn't take the kettle, though. For a few days, I told myself he didn't want it because it would remind him of me. That doesn't make a lot of sense, he could just sell it on eBay or whatever. It would make a good buck. Then I thought he left it for me as a gift, out of a good heart. Or pity. Now I just don't know.

The red flames lick the blue bottom of the kettle, the water becomes alive with sound. This is a Classic Enamel-on-Steel Whistling Kettle. The name of the color is "sage", which is an icy blue that can't make up its mind about being blue or white. The contrast of the flames against the cold colors looks beautiful. As I look across the living room I notice the opposite pattern: the cold colors of the snowy Thursday diving through the windows and pouring down over the now-naked yellow hardwood floor of the living room, which is, at the same time, painted with warm tones by the ceiling lights.

It's funny how we use warm-colored lights to balance out the cold colors of the outside. It's just a trick to make our brains feel more comfortable, to tell us we're warm and cozy on the inside, protected from the harsh cold of the outside. Meanwhile, standing here, right next to the flames of the stove, I'm warm on the outside but cold on the inside.

A few months ago, before he left, I noticed I don't feel hungry anymore. After a while, my belly hurts, and that's how I know I need to eat. Staring into the empty spot on the living room hardwood, I realize I haven't felt sad or angry since he left. It just hurts a little above the hunger spot, on the chest area.

I still don't know what happened. One day we were making plans for the future. The next day, things felt different. Now, I'm making tea for myself for no reason. I don't even feel like drinking tea, but I had to do something, I had to use the damn Le Creuset. I'm not gonna leave it sitting there. Now I just feel stupid: he was always the one to make tea, and I, again, don't know what I'm doing.

That's what I've been telling myself. I'm not mad at him for leaving, or not saying earlier that something was wrong. I'm not mad at him for not explaining properly why he decided to leave. I'm not mad at him for taking the rug, and I'm not mad that he left the Le Creuset. We, humans, don't know what we're doing, in general. We're just a bunch of clueless idiots trying to figure out what we should do next. We're all doing our best.

I've learned that from my mother.

When I was a kid, my mom was my hero, the wisest person alive. She knew everything, and she could solve any problem. As I got older I realized she doesn't have superpowers, she's just a regular person. I remember her face the day I broke my arm in eighth grade. She was terrified, even more than I was. She said "It's OK, it's gonna be fine," as she helped me get inside the car. "It's just a broken arm."

Today I know she wasn't telling that to me, she was telling that to herself. That was the day I realized she didn't quite know what she was doing. She lost her superpowers.

Last year, I went to visit them in the summer. It was horrible, she and dad were bickering all the time. On the last day I was there, we were sitting on the new deck dad had built by himself behind the house, just mom and I, drinking a terrible lemonade she had made. Dad was grocery shopping, and mom was telling me there had been an incredible amount of cursing involved in the construction of the deck.

I asked her "How do you make it work for so long? I mean, you and dad." She just stared, then she sighed.

She looked at the neatly kept yard as if proud of what they had built for themselves. "Well, Stella," she said, "you're gonna say it's a cliché, but the secret is communication." She was right. It was a cliché.

Then she explained. "Your father is barely the guy I married, and I'm not the woman he married, either. The woman he married hadn't had this majestic boob job, to begin with." She pointed to her tits.

"Mom!" I said, disgusted.

She laughed and drank from her lemonade.

"Seriously, though," she said, "people change, and it's stupid to think they don't. Over the years, I've changed a lot and your father has changed too. The key is to change together, to notice how the other is changing, and to tell them about how you're changing. The only way to do that is to talk, talk, and talk, and really try to understand them. But let me tell you, Stella, it's hard!"

Sitting on the deck full of splinters, I nodded slowly. Until that point, my mom was still just a regular human in my eyes, someone who was trying her best without really knowing what to do in life. At that moment, she showed a new side of her. She was as wise and powerful as I saw her when I was a kid. The difference was that now this wisdom wasn't magical and immaculate, it was real, and the result of years of hard work.

"Sometimes," she continued, "your father speaks and I have no idea what he's talking about. He might as well be speaking in a different language. And I swear sometimes I just can't get through his thick skull. But that's because words are the best tool we have, and, honey, sometimes words are barely useful at all. How can I take a feeling," she waved her hands and pointed to her head, "an idea that lives inside my mind, and turn it into words? And then, once those words are inside your father's stupid brain, they have to make sense to him and mean exactly what I want them to mean! Stella," she put a hand on my leg, "sometimes even I don't know what I mean!" She threw her hands into the air. "I don't know what the heck I'm feeling. Words are hard!"

I laughed a little and mindlessly took a sip of the lemonade, immediately regretting my decision.

"So you talk," she said, "and you talk, and you talk… eventually you get to know the other person better. And eventually, you get to know yourself better. But you never quite get to know all of it."

She gazed at the yard, and I looked at her as if I could finally see her. I was filled with a newfound respect for her.

"That was nice, mom," I said. "Thank you."

Her eyes met mine and she held my hand. "You're welcome, honey. Just remember," she leaned forward and almost whispered, "we have no fucking idea what the fuck we're doing."

She took her hand to her mouth, pretending she was embarrassed for saying a bad word in front of her daughter.

"Want more lemonade?" she asked.

I smiled. "Sure."

#

The Sage Le Creuset Classic Whistling Tea Kettle is almost there. I can feel it's eager to do its thing and whistle. I take a cup from the cupboard, and throw a bag of peppermint tea inside, wondering why is it that I'm the one with the kettle.

I thought I was doing fine, I thought I was communicating. I was wrong. Or maybe I was the only one communicating? It came out of nowhere! One day I was happy — or I thought I was — I had a boyfriend, I had plans, I had a rug. Now I have a Le Creuset kettle, a rent too expensive for me to pay on my own, and no idea what to do with my life.

It's been a week and I haven't cried. I'm not sure why. But when I see the spot where the rug should be, it hurts. In the chest area.

When people lose an arm or a leg, sometimes they have what people call phantom limb syndrome, where they feel like the limb is still there — sometimes the phantom limb even hurts. That's how I feel about the rug. It feels like it's there. It's only when I look that I realize it's not.

The kettle starts rehearsing a quiet whistle.

Come to think of it, that's how I feel about Josh too. Sometimes I feel like he's in the bathroom and is gonna come out at any minute. Or at work, just about to come home. I don't believe in ghosts, but sometimes I can swear there's someone else here with me. I'm sharing the apartment with the ghost of a living person.

There's a whisper of a whistle in the air, and I can feel the pain in my chest, reminding me I'm actually upset.

I wasn't ready for this. I wasn't ready to live in a haunted apartment. I wasn't ready to make tea for myself. I wasn't ready to not have a rug. Why didn't he say something? Why didn't he communicate?

Right, he didn't know what he's doing. Neither do I, but that doesn't mean our actions don't have consequences. Everyone is doing the best they can, sure, but does that mean criminals shouldn't pay for what they've done? I'm not saying breaking up is a crime, but actions do have consequences! People have to be liable!

The whistle is filling the apartment, proud of itself, and the pain in my chest is getting louder, brighter, hotter, bringing tears to my eyes. I'm not upset, scratch that, I'm devastated! 

He didn't know what he was feeling, words are hard. Yes! But also: fuck you, Josh! The empty space where the rug used to be left a mark in the hardwood and a hole in my chest.

The Le Creuset Classic Whistling Kettle is screaming, loud and strident, and the pain in my chest is stabbing my heart with a hot shard of red steel. I'm distraught, my world is shattered. How am I supposed to pay rent? What am I supposed to do? Oh, you're gonna stay with Tommy for a while until you find a place? How nice of you to leave the apartment for me. How awesome that I can relieve all our experiences here! You get to stay with a friend while I get to live in a haunted house, and remember the day I gave you the fucking tea kettle, the day you installed the warm lights, the day we had sex on the rug!

I'm sweating. The water is boiling and the kettle is screaming in my ears. Hot tears are streaming down my cheeks while a fiery knife plunges into my heart.

I grab the heat-resistant ergonomic handle of the Le Creuset and throw it against the wall, screaming "Fuck you!" I can't see what happens next as I fall to the yellow hardwood floor, sobbing. It's only then that I feel a few red spots on my shaking hands, the boiling water is burning my skin. Still on my knees, I turn on the cold water and put my hands under it.

I scream again, heaving.

There's a hole in the drywall and boiling water on the floor, but the kettle is intact. I guess this really is a good tea kettle.

#

On Saturday, as I'm packing my stuff to stay with my parents until I find another place, he texts me: "I forgot the Le Creuset. Can I pick it up next week?"

I text back. "Sorry, sold it on eBay. Got a good buck."

January 14, 2022 02:43

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

7 comments

Anna Nonymous
01:43 Jan 24, 2022

Splinter, I know in a previous comment someone mentions the lemonade scene as the point at which things drag a bit, but I actually really loved and appreciated the flashback. That moment when we realize our parents are human - and then again when we realize they're MORE than that - I loved it. And the ending. Her fretting for weeks about the damn kettle and why he might have left it for her. Well done!

Reply

Fjc Montenegro
04:38 Jan 24, 2022

Hey, thanks for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed it! It makes a difference. Sometimes stories work for some people but don't work for others, so I'm glad the lemonade part worked for you. It works for me too. :) Thanks!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
00:00 Jan 20, 2022

Nice work, I enjoyed reading. I especially love the mentions of the rug coming in again and again throughout. The two small critiques I have are that at the beginning I didn't interpret "Le Creuset" as a kettle, my experience with that brand is large Dutch oven style pots, so I think I'd slip the word kettle in a little earlier. I also felt it dragged, a little. My attention began to stray during the lemonade drinking flashback, and came back when she throws the teapot. I would have loved more information about Josh and the relationship.

Reply

Fjc Montenegro
06:42 Jan 20, 2022

Hey, thanks for the comment! Yeah, I didn't even know Le Creuset did kettles until I googled "best tea kettles", so you're right. Mentioning it was a kettle earlier could've helped. And about it dragging a little... to be honest, there was a point in there I didn't even know where I was going 🙃, but sometimes stories happen that way, so I told myself it was fine. There's basically no external conflict, I think, which is kinda lame but also kinda worked for this story. Maybe? IDK, I liked the final result. I appreciate you taking the time t...

Reply

06:58 Jan 24, 2022

Oh, I don't think it was pointless. I like stories where it's a little ramble-y, not too much happening but a lot of inner dialogue. Sometimes authors lose the arc doing that, but I don't think that's the case here. I'd love your feedback on my latest story, if you can find the time. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
J.C. Lovero
22:53 Jan 19, 2022

I enjoyed reading the story. Something many of us can relate to if we have ever been in a relationship that ended. I liked the tie back at the end to selling the kettle on eBay. Nice and snappy.

Reply

Fjc Montenegro
06:33 Jan 20, 2022

Hey! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply