Flash Fiction Draft – Women in the Kitchen

I wrote this during a generative workshop in April 2020 with the Writers Club NY, led by facilitator Andreas Joshua. This is the only thing I have written during this COVID-19 debacle in the US.

I am not going to overthink it. Just going to post it. THIS IS A DRAFT, y’all. And that was my scared ass ego talking. Ha!

Enjoy this flash draft I wrote thinking of the women I watched in the kitchen and what comfort looks like when you’re alone.

You haven’t slept in a day or two. Not well anyway. Not even after the
warmth of kava tea, not even after meditation and binaural beats, not even
after a toke or two of some hybrid that compelled you to eat five pieces of
pecan brownies and drink all of your Riesling.

But today, you want to be with yourself, like really be with yourself, and
not the way you are right now. Right now, there’s a lot going on. Right now,
alone is this gaping hole of endless sameness, of never ending helplessness, of anxiety. That’s what is keeping you up. You feel neglected, like a plant in need of water, of sunlight. You feel wilted. Thirsty for care. Too exhausted to sleep.

Spirit decides that a proper nourishment, something kind for yourself, a
real meal, something of a comfort you haven’t felt in weeks. You decide in the market that you’re making arroz con gandules. You laugh at your craving for the most Boricua of rice dishes and buy some rotisserie pollo, and a container of potato salad from the deli in the market. Perfect.

When you get home, you pull out your caldero and start with your mother’s
sofrito. Pure gold. It sizzles there in the pot, jewels of alcaparrada
simmering there in that gold, like a treasure unearthed. The smell is
intoxicating, rich with garlic, herbaceous with recao, savory. It makes you
miss her. It makes you think you should call her more.

The scent reminds you of women in the kitchen, laughing over ice cold
Coronas with thin slices of lime plugged in at the top of the neck so every sip had citrus. A loud group, they stood in their small kitchens steamy with those ubiquitous pots of cooking rice, coffee brewing for the tipsy. You smile with them, you a soft sliver of a child, a young baby thang. You dance and twirl for them and they giggle and call you pretty and gift you bits of tocino from the rice.

You pop open a Corona with the thought of them, ice cold from the fridge,
shove a chunk of lime into the neck and swig. The foundation of your memories always begin in the kitchen around laughing women and fragrant meals. You stir the tocino with the sofrito and olives in your own caldero now with your grandmother’s metal cucharon. Gandules, washed grains of rice, and water all leave your hands as if not just by memory but from the part of you that has become one of those women, making meals to comfort and soothe the sandpaper of their survival. It comes from the part of you that is still the sweet baby girl that runs into their hugs and learns salsa on squares of linoleum. 

The waiting is where the soul is. The love always erupts in the kitchen when
the rice is on the stove doing its thing. How inviting the kitchen would be
with those women swirling about, their smiles like sun glinting off water.
Their chancletas shuffled on the floor and El Gran Combo is tinny on the radio. And the way they danced and laughed, the way they held each other, the way their eyes looked while they prepared pastelillos and ensalada con bacalao.

But that rice. Consistent, timed, perfected. Crown jewel of the matriarchs.

When you finally eat your arroz con gandules that night, it is a shot of
soul that you needed. Admittedly, it is not as good as your grandmother’s. Or your mother’s. You make a note to call your mother so she can laugh at you a little bit. But still, each grain of it is a memory cultivated in you, a kind of love that blossoms from a steaming plate of food, and you know you are not alone anymore. Spirit reminds you that you never had been.

That night, you sleep undisturbed, satiated, like a kid on a pile of coats
during a party.

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