The ground turkey had been pebble-gray right after it was cooked.
She didn’t know anything about browning meat, thought the only important thing was to kill the e coli bacteria. Two days later, having been served at a couple of meals and returned to the refrigerator, the meat was white.
That stuff tasted funky last night, he thought. I’m not eating it again. His plan for dinner was to microwave a tasty burrito out of some canned frijoles and some extra sharp cheddar. But she had somehow covered every available countertop in the little kitchen with stuff, leaving no place to work: Plates, bags of produce, saucepans, utensils, paper towels, her purse, a stack of books.
He shoved a pile of junk on the table out of the way and sat down there with a plate and a tortilla.
He was carefully smearing beans on his tortilla when she started in asking him what he was going to put in his burrito. “Do you want some lettuce? How about cilantro?” He declined it all, he just wanted beans and cheese, so she started making him a salad, using all the stuff he didn’t want in his burrito.
He decided not to grate the cheese. The grater was too hard to clean, all the little cheese bits in it, and a million sharp edges. He always grated a little bit of himself trying to clean the damned thing.
She was standing at the counter, blocking the silverware drawer, so he yanked it out a little faster than usual, to show her that she was in his way. She was always in his way. The knife he wanted to use on the cheese, a cheap black-handled four-inch supermarket paring knife, wasn’t in there. The kitchen is full of knives, he thought. Who needs that one? He put his hand on the front of the drawer thinkng to slam it shut violently, but she would jump, and maybe scream, so with some effort he held himself back, and slid it gently closed.
Of course she was using the knife for something else. He found a substitute and went back to the table to slice cheese. The Cabot Extra Sharp was one of his favorites. She had told him the softer cheeses were better for him, but he loved this cheese, its strong smell and taste. Real Mexicans would have used a milder cheese, but fuck them. They would have put a bunch of chilis in it and ruined it anyway. This was his burrito.
He knew his hands were a little shaky because of the drawer thing earlier, so he was extra cautious slicing the cheese. He wanted it to melt without having to nuke it for five minutes and get it all bubbling so it would either burn his tongue or, if he waited for it to cool, congeal into a mass of cheese-like plastic. This meant it had to be thin, since it wasn’t to be grated.
She was going on about what she was putting in his salad. Lettuce and cilantro, of course. He had just explicitly said no to both of those. Cucumber, tomato wedges, diced onions. Sculpting his fine, fine slices, he only knew she was talking, not what she said.
He thought about the receptionist at work, so young and tender, the skin on her face like a baby’s, her smile so sweet and guileless. She seemed, in fact, like a baby to him, her pudgy little fingers poking at the phone buttons. Sometimes he would lean on her desk and try to make small talk, and she was always agreeable, with that baby smile, but there was nothing he knew how to say that made any real sense to her. The only time they ever connected, the two of them, was once when a little boy was hanging around her desk, pretending he could make himself invisible, and she was playing along with the kid, and she turned and said “I don’t see anybody, do you?” and he had gone along quickly and smoothly, agreeing that, no, there certainly was no little kid anywhere around, and she had lit up in genuine delight. That baby smile!
Once he had his burrito assembled he realized that it wasn’t really a burrito. No Mexican would be caught dead with it. It was just a tortilla. not even rolled up or anything, with some beans and pieces of cheese on it. He put it in the microwave at 40% power for two minutes and stood there, getting irradiated, until the thing beeped. As he sat back down at the table she brought over his bowl of salad and looked at his dinner.
“Aren’t you going to put some ground turkey on it?”