I am going out to buy groceries. The baskets in my kitchen have been empty for a few days and I have been living on Maggi and other junk food that I would grab from stalls or order home on my way back from work and I’m starting to feel it in my bowels. Shitting has not been the most pleasant experience the last few mornings, so it’s about time I had some salad and some vegetables, a proper meal, and maybe I should get some fruit too while I’m at it. I like apples, especially green ones, but the grocery stall where I’m going don’t usually have them, and the red ones the grocer has has a sandy texture that makes it unappetizing and, I suspect, makes for an even more unpleasant toilet experience. I could get bananas, but they go bad so fast and I like to keep them around and eat my fruits only when I feel like it and not in a race against time. I will definitely get a few oranges though. They don’t fill you up since they’re mostly water, and the smell is better than any other fruit in my opinion, and it’s a very uncomplicated fruit. You peel and you eat, and, call me a monster if you want, I honestly do not mind the pith, or the seeds for that matter. I love guavas too, but not the giant ripe yellow ones my grocer usually has. Their smell when they get a little too ripe can permeate through the whole apartment and it sometimes feel nauseating. No, I love the guavas back at home, the ones no bigger than peaches, still green, right before they begin to ripen. They are my favourite, but I haven’t eaten them in a long time. The adults, when I was a kid, would say unripe guava hardens your stool and causes constipation if eaten too much. I am an adult, and I’m not so sure now. It feels like yesterday I was still a kid and my grandma was telling me off for picking all the green guavas from the little guava tree in their backyard, no less promising me that I would get constipated and my stomach would swell to the size of a jackfruit if I ate all of them. In hindsight, I think she might just be angry because I wasted so many of them. It was her favourite fruit too. When I first left home for the city for college almost ten years ago, and my folks would courier me stuff, and my grandma would insist on including a few guavas just for me. Whenever I get a package from home, there would always be a few guavas in there wrapped in old newspapers. Thinking about it now, ever since she passed away a few years ago, I don’t think I’ve had one, not even when I would go back home for my vacations. I’m going home sometime in the next month. I should see what has become of the tree at least.
I get to the grocery stall. The grocer greets me and says he hasn’t seen me in a while. I tell them that I’ve been too busy to make my own food. It’s only half true. My work requires much of my time, yes, but I always have time enough if I really wanted to grocery shop and prepare a proper meal. I have been mostly lazy and out of it. Lately just one of those things that comes and goes. I don’t even feel that tired like I used to do. The grocer points out a few vegetables and tells me their prices and confidently sells me the two remaining heads of broccoli. I love broccoli and I always used to get them before. He remembers, and he knows I’m getting them, and I am. I think briefly about how I should make them. I like them half-raw. Soak them in hot water for a few minutes, after washing them, of course, and go to town with it. I will never understand why some people don’t like broccoli. Or maybe that’s a myth started by movies and TV. Everyone I have ever met either like broccoli or feel neutral towards them, and none has ever refused to eat them. Well, actually, apart from my little sister. But she’s never even tried it, so how can she know she doesn’t like it? This exact thing has been the cause of a few of our arguments in the past when we were younger. We are six years apart, but even when we were younger, that doesn’t seem to matter at all. She has little respect for anyone, doesn’t fear anyone, and she would annoy me to no end, and she would enjoy it too. The troublemaker. The conductor of chaos. The harbinger of controversy. Even our parents would sometime joke where they went wrong with her. But she has come a long way from that tantrum-prone kid. Now doing her BA final semester, she wants to come to the city to continue studying. I’ve set up a quite reasonably comfortable life in the city and I feel I’ve settled in, despite the fact that it feels like it has taken me close to a decade to feel that way. But my work is going great and I have friends, and I guess it also has to do with the fact that I don’t have to think about home that much since I have two older brothers who can take care of things pretty well. I don’t fear my sister disrupting my life that much because I know she’s grown from that immature little monkey, but she is the pickiest eater I have ever known and I already hate the idea of having to cook for her or having to eat what she cooks. I’m no chef either, to be clear, and I can hardly tell the difference between any of the leafy vegetables, but she’s the kind of person who would rather eat dal and boiled potatoes for a whole month instead of exerting herself to prepare an even slightly different kind of meal. If she does come to say with me here, then maybe I can try to make it an opportunity to teach her something about the sublime art of culinary. One can only hope.
In addition to the broccoli and the few oranges, I get a bouquet of palak, a kilo of tomatoes—I like adding tomatoes to everything—half a kilo of okra, a kilo of potatoes—the most versatile vegetable on the planet by far in my Michelin star opinion and I will fight anyone who says otherwise—half a kilo of onion, two bulbs of garlic, three bitter melons—people always seem surprised by the fact that I like better melons, or bitter food in general, I mean, is there a certain look on my face that makes people assume that?—and half a kilo of beans. I eye the one remaining packet of mushroom sitting there so invitingly, as if daring me to get it. I like mushrooms, but not really when I make them. Even when I try to experiment with it, something always seems to go wrong somewhere in the process. My girlfriend used to— Pardon me, my ex-girlfriend used to make mushrooms that could give any YouTube chef a run for their money. She can strike the perfect balance between that wet mossy scent and the scent of whatever she cooks up, and it’s never soggy, no matter what dish she turns it into, and never burnt. I’ve tried to follow her recipes a few times in the past, and I would follow it down to the letter, setting timers on my phone and everything, but it always turns into a soggy mess or an unidentifiable burnt bitter mess. She was, is, the best cook I’ve ever known. Even better than my mother. Yeah, I dare say. And it was because of her that I found an appreciation for food and the making of. I’d been pretty neutral before I met her. Sure, I was able to whip up something edible to keep myself from starving to death, but after I’ve been with her, I really understood the rewards that come with the effort. Although, even my best dish would never come close to her worst. I miss her cooking more than most—although I think that’s probably because I’m trying to not allow myself to miss anything else, a moving-on strategy, or whatever. It has almost been a year since we broke up—since she broke up with me, if you must know—and I feel like I’m only beginning to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Or maybe that’s just some hypnotic illusion, who knows. Whatever the case, I’m moving towards it, slowly, gradually, hoping I am bound to reach it. I’ve never been in love before, so I did not know what to expect to have my heart broken. They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, but I still really can’t see where I went wrong, why we weren’t good for each other. Or maybe that comes later? Maybe it’s still too early? Maybe when I reach that light, I will be able to see? Or, not to get too philosophical about it, maybe when I can see, then I will have reached the light. Moving on and understanding goes hand in hand. Yeah. Eat your heart out Nietzsche. All I know now is that it fucking hurt. Still hurts. And those random unwelcomed dreams . . . Very little to do about it except bear the memories with some motherfucking machismo, turn into a stoic son of a bitch until the dreams turn into something feeble. Yeah, that’s hard. I’m an emotional person, but after a point, emotion is draining, sucks the life juices right out of your veins. I can keep myself in check in the presence of others, like when she told me she was breaking up with me on a date that I naively thought was going nicely—thinking back on it, I’m glad we meant enough to her for her to do it in person—I reacted reasonably, and even when she said all the things she had to say and that was that, a tiny part of my brain congratulated me on how well I was handling it. I was still fine the rest of the day. Hazy, hurt, but fine. It was at night when I went to bed. I reached for my phone like I did every other night, a muscle memory at that point, and entered WhatsApp to text her. No ark would’ve saved even Noah in the flood that I created that night. Alright, fine, the next few nights as well. And it even got to a point that going to bed became some kind of a fucking trigger for my tear ducts, even on days I thought I didn’t feel particularly sad about it. And when all that was over, I was in this phase where I tried to do anything and everything, like I’m trying to overcompensate for the black hole that has formed inside of me. I wasn’t really a drinker. I hated the taste of alcohol, but in the few months that followed the breakup, I experienced the excruciating pain of puking through the nose, experienced passing out from intoxication, and the unimaginably Sahara-like dehydration filled hangover—add to it the red burning piss. None of that helped, not even after a few times. Nothing seemed to help, except time itself. Time is the healer of all wounds. Who was it that said it, by the way? Anyway, enough time has passed, and now I can look at mushrooms and think about her and all the good things about her and not be reduced to a pathetic wimp. Good job, me.
I decide not to get the mushrooms. I’ll only turn it into something unappetizing. Not knowing what else to get, I give the basked to the grocer to weigh them up. I look at the things I’m getting and I start to wonder what I should make tonight. I don’t need to do much thinking before I decide on dal and boiled potatoes. Yeah, it’ll do for tonight. When I get groceries, I don’t really think ahead. I just get what looks good in the moment and decide later what might go well together. I’ll think up a proper gourmet meal tomorrow. It’s Saturday, so I have all the time. Or maybe I should do something else. There are a couple of friends who I haven’t seen in a while who’ve sent me a couple of worried texts, maybe I can go see them if they’re free. Or I can go and see a movie. Any movie will do. I haven’t been to the cinema in ages and maybe that’ll jumpstart my love for movies again.
I pay the grocer, who, I have to mention, always has the sweetest smile, and, carrying the laden polythene bag, I head back to my apartment, making plans in my head for the next day.