My object is a garlic press- in particular, a garlic press that wasn’t mine, but was my friend’s press. She gave me the job of squishing the garlic with the garlic press for a pork tenderloin dinner and I felt honored to have a job and do something useful, and then I used it improperly, I think, and broke it. I’m not sure I used it improperly, it might have just broken, maybe it had had it’s life as a garlic press and it wouldn’t have mattered who was using it, it would have broken at that moment. I like to think that. But I sense I did something wrong maybe, or used it improperly, because it just all felt wrong from the beginning the way I was trying to use it and then I forced it.
Anyway, it went in the garbage, I believe. She and her husband did not make a big deal out of it. In fact, they complemented me on how well I ended up cutting the garlic without the press. And it wasn’t overdone how they were complementing me. it was like really, it seemed, not a big deal at all that I had just broken their garlic press.
But I felt like a bit of jerk. It was metal and plastic I believe. By now—this happened in early January in Massachussetts (I can never spell that state)—I should have certainly sent them a new one, but I haven’t. This is all extraordinary, I believe. Every time I use my own garlic press, like tonight, I feel guilty about it. Not super guilty. But just a little, and I think how nice it would be to send them a garlic press. I’d wrap it in tissue paper or on a bed of cottonish material and put it into a flat box, like it was piece of jewelry. I can imagine it would be a fun package to get in the mail. Slightly heavy if it is a nice metal one. And they would pick up the package and they would wonder, before opening it: What is it? What could it be?
I’m realizing I’m soon going to have to go to the store, I’m going to have to find a good kitchen store, and buy a new one and send it to them. The garlic press I broke had a kind of square or trapezoidal end, silvery metal. And a pink handle that was metal, but maybe with a pink plastic or rubberlike coating on the handle. Hard to know really. It wasn’t as sturdy certainly as the one I have at home, and I think that I might have expected it to be like the one I have, and you can’t just assume things like that.
This is where it leads when you assume like I did, and now look, look at me, I’m a gosh darn mess about the whole thing. Garlic presses are difficult to clean out, but they are a good tool. I’ve always chopped garlic but then i saw my friend make fish one night with the garlic press and it seemed like such and easy and good idea. Your fingers don’t end up smelling like garlic if your with people and you’re trying to make a fair impression. My parents have one that cleans out easily. And that is the kind that i would send to my friends if I ever do get around to doing it. My friends probably already bought a new one, but it wouldn’t hurt to have two in the event that someone uses one of the presses improperly and breaks it.
They’ll have a back up.
A dish cloth is an inexpensive cloth, the size of a washcloth, but thinner and usually made of a more synthetic material, with a waffle texture. It is designed for no purpose other than washing dishes, and often comes with the word dish printed onto it in large writing to make this clear.
I spend a lot of time thinking about dishwashing utensils, not unlike the way other people become fixated on utensils for brewing coffee or shaving. We spend no less time washing dishes than brewing coffee or shaving, and I find it extraordinary that so few others seem to spend as much time thinking about dishcloths. I had shared apartments and rooms with various friends and acquaintances, sharing responsibilities in various more formal and less formal arrangements before I moved into an apartment in Brooklyn with a contemporary I barely knew. We were very civil to one another.
As we had been accustomed, we both washed dishes putting soap onto a sponge. This went on for many months without conflict, as it had with many roommates before. Our apartment had an extra bedroom and a third roommate moved in. This roommate could not abide the washing of dishes in the manner we had been accustomed. She insisted that we were wasting time, energy, soap, and water, and that we would have to learn to use a dish bucket and dish cloth. She proceeded to teach us and enforce the use of her techniques. We were at first amused if not offended at her insistence, but we learned that among the advantages not mentioned above were the quiet available when most dishwashing time did not involve running water and improved sanitation by way of dishcloths being washable with clothes dozens if not a hundred times.
Now I have caught her obsession. I enjoy washing dishes perhaps more than any other activity when I wash them with her method. When I see someone stand before a sink and put soap on a sponge my stomach turns in knots and I try to contain myself nearly as I do watching a parent hit an infant.
Method for efficient washing of dishes:
1. take all dishes out of the sink.
2. fill either the left or right half of the sink with water, on the hot end of comfortable. use a small bucket, cooking pot, salad bowl, or if you are lucky enough to have a divided sink, thank your stars.
3. mix dish soap into water. turn water off.
4. place utensils, other than sharp knives, into water. on top of them add a few dishes. do something else for 15 seconds.
5. gently wipe dishes, now briefly soaked, with wet cloth and place into empty half of sink. dishes requiring more than a gentle wipe should be placed back in soaking water until they do not.
6. place a few more dishes into watery side
7. turn on water, rinse wiped dishes, turn off water.
8. repeat 5-7 until all dishes done.
9. wipe thoroughly soaked utensils, and wash sharp knives carefully.
10. hang your beloved dishcloth to dry.
Grapefruits are amazing. They have this epic size, the “king” of citrus fruits, if you will. Thick skin that’s smooth and soft and the most amazing fleshy interior…ruby red or champagne white (take your pick, california or florida), they’re pulpy and massive, and tart, and sweet all in one.
In Spanish they have a saying: one’s “better half” is their “media naranja,” literally your “half orange”…Of course, that is oranges, not grapefruits, but it’s stuck with me ever since I first heard the phrase. My mother and father have shared exactly one grapefruit every single morning of their married life. My mom cuts it in half and then cuts along the individual pieces and the inner circumference so that you can eat it right out of the skin, like a bowl. They still do it, almost 70 years old.
I don’t think they have a better expression of their harmony and I don’t think they need one—you take my half, I take yours, they are not equal (one half inevitably gets more pits, or more skin, or more juice) but each part comes from the same fruit.
My object is a powder compact. I´m not sure what brand is, something you could by at any drugstore in 1999. It´s about the size of your palm, maybe a little smaller, and on the outside, before you open it, it´s brown and pretty dingy. When you open the compact, there is a cloudy mirror on one side. The mirror is covered in compacted powder and it´s hard to see much, except towards the very center of the mirror. On the opposite side of the mirror is where the powder lives. Even though the compact is 10 years old, there is still some of that compacted powder around the edges.
There is also a thin, well used powder puff.
The reason why this little compact is so extraordinary to me is because it used to belong to my mother, who died back in 1999. It was the one that sat in her makeup drawer that August. It was the one she used the day she died. She touched it. She opened it. She looked into that mirror. She used it everyday. That dingy little powder puff actually touched her face. HER face. And the smell. The smell is so EXTRA-ordinary. It so reminds me of her. She used that brand of face powder for a really long time so when I find that little compact, waiting for me in a dark drawer, I just have to open it and there she is. A little bit of her. Her face. Her smell.
I can touch it. I can open it. I can look into the mirror.
It is a zippered, boxy, red and white striped Ralph Lauren makeup bag. The bag is pretty filthy inside, made dirty by the escaped shavings from my eyebrow and eyeliner pencils.
It is one of those memories that I’ll carry with me for years, I’m sure, that I wish I could erase. I was stressing out over something likely related to school or money and J, my partner at the time, came into the living room carrying my makeup bag. This makeup bag is filled with all of the notions and potions that I use to make myself feel more comfortable in this world. It carries all of the tools I require to create myself in the public realm. I can’t leave the house without putting on my makeup, so this bag is quite critical and essential, good or bad, to who I am. On this day, J brought the bag to me and I looked inside. J had taken out each and every object from the bag and cleaned them. The inside of the bag had also been scrubbed clean and all of the objects replaced. When I looked inside the bag, I couldn’t help the tears falling from my eyes. I felt so cared for.
I need the contents of that bag now more than ever to cover the pain and the sadness and to assemble a new life. And every day I see all of the clinging, brown, grey, black flecks on every surface of every tool and tube in that bag and I miss J all over again. And all I know in those dark moments that leave smudgy marks all over my fingers are that I need to clean it all out and learn how to keep it clean on my own now.
This is a chess set - maybe more like a collection of mismatched objects rather than a single object. The pieces are lightweight, hollow plastic, hailing from 2 or 3 different original sets. One of the pawns has had its top broken off, and several pieces are chipped. The board is made of worn wood, the paint on its surface scratched from a long life of many games. A small brass hook on one side keeps it clasped shut when it’s not in use, storing the mismatched pieces. Boards like this are a dime a dozen in Russia.
I found this chess set in an overstuffed drawer in the apartment I’m renting in Siberia. So it’s not mine, though it is in my possession. It is owned by a woman named Darima, whom I have never met, and whose daily habits and passions I can only guess at through details of her living space. Like this chess set. The broken pieces connect me to her in that way.
And I silently thank her every time I move a piece on the board, because this chess board also connects me to my partner on the other side of the globe. We play chess via email and internet chats, he with wooden rooks in Bloomington and me with these gracefully curving plastic knights in Ulan-Ude. This is an ordinary chessboard, but on my kitchen windowsill, it becomes a portal to other lives, of both strangers and lovers.