Cinnamon From Pakistan
by Francis Sanzaro
Spices are nature’s tantra, Caitlynn would say.
On a typical Sunday morning, Caitlynn, naked and barefoot, would tip-toe around their kitchen floor. She would dab fennel pollen or crushed fenugreek on her chest, then wait for Jon to take notice and lick it off, which he did, and which she would pretend to be bothered by, but wasn’t really.
And yet, of late, her stir-fry pan had been unloved for months, same with her crock pot, which was now under the sink filled with old sponges, and those soups that made her eyes smile—the pureed squash with freshly chopped pasilla de oaxaca chile—were smells she let drift away.
Jon hadn’t had her soup in a year, nor her mole negro, and same with her joy, gone.
Steady for four years, Jon intended to pop the question, soon, fingers crossed! no ring yet, but coming!, but Caitlynn’s depression was carving downward lines in the soft face he loved so much. Her moments of happiness were now so brief and illuminated that he was carried from day to day just looking for one or trying to create one and he didn’t want to propose to someone severely depressed. Right?
In her depression, because she stopped looking at him, he looked at her face more frequently, simple brown eyes with short lashes, an unremarkable face, he admitted to himself, but sometimes to love something you have to see it every day, but the house—condo really—was quiet now, and sometimes when you know another is about to leave the best thing to do is rifle through their stuff, the classic places, the top drawer, picture books, the spice rack, for things you missed, but not quite…but also for new questions to ask, since the old ones were in disrepair and when they are out the door and your heart feels as if it is about to implode there is nothing like staring at the items they touched every day, hoping they still have the heat to touch you back.
Caitlynn was leaving, she told Jon one Fall morning, not another guy—she said “no other man”—that there were five dinners in the freezer, and fennel soup, for him, and some money for four month’s rent, and utilities, and she left the black pepper corns and dried sumac berries.
The rest of the spices she took, including the cinnamon from Pakistan.
She said, “I’ll be gone when you get home from work in the morning.”
She said, “I told Kelly,” their mutual friend, and said it was ok if “you two got together,” insinuating, it was he who was in love.
“You’re miserable,” she told him.
“You’ve been depressed lately.”
“You’ve seen you two together.”
“You deserve each other.”
And him, in heated conversation, countering her.
“No, I love you!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Kelly said she is in love with me?”
“What does that even mean?”
Caitlynn was gone now and he had stolen a shirt of hers, the turmeric, an old CD and a tube of red lipstick.
Kelly, slightly leaning against his shoulder, was in sweatpants. She stopped over, was “in the neighborhood.” She was ten years younger than him, easy to talk to but always distracted, and never cooked or used spices, rarely salt, but she helped him figure out what he was feeling.
Then, out of nowhere, Kelly said, ” we need to focus on ourselves,” and “take a break.”
Kelly stopped coming by and took her pillow from his bed when she left.
Francis Sanzaro (Ph.D.), is the author of three books. His essays and fiction have appeared in The New York Times Sunday Review, The Scotsman, Huffington Post, The Baltimore Post Examiner, Continental Philosophy Review and Vol. 1 Brooklyn, among many others. His books are The Infantile Grotesque: Pathology, Sexuality and a Theory of Religion (2016), The Boulder: A Philosophy for Bouldering (2013), and Society Elsewhere: Why the Gravest Threat to Humanity Will Come From Within (2018). He is Editor of Rock and Ice and Ascent magazines. More at Fsanzaro.com