Indira didn’t like electric stoves. They had no character, no life. They were artificial and didn’t understand what food needed in order to cook well. Gas stoves were filled with a life she could barely explain. For her, starting a gas stove was somewhat of a ritual. It was like genuflecting to the ancestors. She would first light the match. The scratch of the red tip against the box was, for Indira, the sound of creation. She saw it all in slow motion. The flames burst into existence; then suddenly, the sound of light brought forth a larger flame that began immediately to turn the wood black. The flame then burned quietly, as though all the universe stopped to witness this fire, the sometimes yellow, sometimes orange and sometimes white flame, this life that would soon impregnate the void with more flames of life. It continued to burn in silence, eating away the wood, the flame moving closer to her fingers with each second.
She heard the clicking of the gas stove and realized that without much thought, she’d already prepared it to be lit. She moved the match near the invisible gas that leaked from the tiny holes in the stove top. Woof! Blue flames ran in a circle around the tiny eye, flames ready to share in the preparation of her meal for the night.
Indira wanted a simple meal, no work required. She filled the pot with water, broke in half the long angel hairs she’d purchased more than two weeks prior, spilled a bit of olive oil in the water and let the flames do their duty. Let them work for her tonight. The jar of garlic and roasted peppers spaghetti sauce stood like a sentry on her counter. It watched her as she watched it, wondering if like those many nights long ago, she’d be forced to ask for help to get it open. What made the jar seem more ominous was that she no longer had anyone to turn to. There was no one to rescue her from her weaknesses, physical or emotional. She had to brave this jar–like so many other things–alone.
She lifted it from the counter but tried to stall. She looked at the label, examined the logo and pondered the color scheme. The water began to boil. Pasta didn’t take long to cook, especially al dente. She turned the jar around and began to read the ingredients. Organic tomatoes, organic garlic, organic basil. Indira continued to read. The water continued to boil. Organic onions. In minutes, the chance for al dente would be gone. She could stall no longer.
Indira grabbed the top of the jar, held the body tight and twisted with all her might. Her hand and fingers turned red, the jar cover did not budge. She ran some hot water over the cover, tapped the top on the side of the counter, then twisted again. She twisted until her hand hurt. The cover refused to move. She ran a bit more hot water on it. Sat it on the counter for a minute, then tried again. She was about to swear, but instead, in frustration, shouted, “Marcus baby, could you please come down and open this for me?” She waited. There was no answer. “Marcus, can you hear me?” She stopped. Her heartbeat became audible. It was pounding as though threatening to leave her chest. She realized more quickly this time what she was doing. She couldn’t breathe. She needed to leave the kitchen. She didn’t want to eat anymore. She wanted to leave and let the spaghetti burn, let the house burn, let everything go up in flames. She needed life to be like the phoenix, burn and be reborn. But hopes of her dear husband being reborn full grown would never happen. He was dead and would never return to her. It was the jar. It reminded her. She didn’t want to be reminded, but it reminded her that she was alone and helpless. She didn’t want to remember that she missed him desperately, but the jar reminded her and now sat on the counter, unmoved by her emotions. Her husband loved pasta al dente. She dumped the soft and useless pasta into the trash. She threw the pasta jar to the floor, smashing it.
“There. Now you are open and won’t be able to remind me of anything anymore.”
She turned to look at the blue flame. It still burned, waiting to do its duty. Wicked little flame, she thought. It gives rebirth to only that which it chooses. Insidious. Tears stained her face. She turned off the stove, tossed the remaining box of matches into the trash and went to her room to sleep. She’d had enough of matches, flames, pasta and jars that refused to open.