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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

knock, knock

E is smacking the ice cream scoop into the bowl of ground meat, breadcrumbs, grated pecorino, garlic, shallot, some minced parsley and mint. She turns the balls onto a plate of flour and I roll them around, gently shaking them of so just a little holds them together, then into the pan of olive oil. I place them counterclockwise, so I know which one went in first. She stares up at me for a moment, flour on her nose, the kitchen windows open, the breeze flipping the green drapes around, the smell of garlic and pork swelling around us.

The inside door buzzer makes a sound. I tend to ignore it, as there is usually a salesperson or someone begging for change that has made it past the downstairs door roaming the hallways.

I turn the first meatball, making my way slowly around the backwards spiral in the pan. 

The door buzzes again, long and loud. 

I pull the pan off the flame and tiptoe to the peephole. A tall young man is there, staring down at his cel phone. He buzzes again and then he rattles hard on the door handle. 

E is next to me, arms wrapped across her chest. She is scared. I make a face, telling her to be very quiet, then I whisper into her ear to get my cel phone from the kitchen.

The man leans against the door. The distorted bubble of the peephole makes him bend taller. E returns and I try to take a picture with my phone but my hands start to shake a little and I cannot match up the lens to the little hole. 

He rattles hard against the handle again. He is trying to see if anyone is home, to go and get tools and break in, casing our apartment for some act after dark. My mind runs wild with ideas about who this man is, and how he knows we have guitars and computers and cameras he can sell in an underpass. I step back into the hallway and call N who is at her mother's house, telling her what is going on. We agree she will call the guards downstairs. I go back to look and he is gone.

We stand there, E leaning against my side as I do an inventory of what I can use to defend us. A chef's knife, a broken chair leg in the closet. I am calm, but my heart is beating fast. I smell the olive oil and then remember I took the pan off the flame. 

N calls back. The guards found him wandering in the garden downstairs. He is our upstairs neighbor, drunk in the middle of the afternoon, trying to enter the right door but on the wrong floor.  

I go back to the kitchen, put the pan back on the flame. The meatballs begin to sizzle again. There is a dull thud from upstairs, then a crash that echoes down into our bathroom. 


liv said…
I'm glad you told that honestly. Who wouldn't be afraid?

But your cooking...the comforting smell of the meatballs I am sure was a deep comfort to her. You can't make it all go away - but your beautiful cooking matters xoxoxo
Annie said…
Amazing photo. That was a sort of scary post.... I am surprised you didn't just start talking (maybe even swearing gruffly) or something.

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