Serge was always telling me useless facts about food: did I know that Worcestershire sauce was made from anchovies, bones and all? Had I ever heard that coconut water, in an emergency, could be used as a substitute for blood plasma? They were the sort of arbitrary statements that sounded like bad pick-up lines coming from anyone else's lips, but when Serge said them, in his honey-thick Belgian voice, they were somehow endearing. That, and the fact that his enthusiasm was genuine. There was all this stuff out there that nobody knew. It was like he was discovering it before anyone else.
"Guess what food dynamite is made of," said Serge one evening. He was on the computer, reading one of a seemingly endless supply of More Amazing Facts About Food! articles online.
"I haven't a clue," I said. He waited for me to guess. I shrugged.
"Peanuts," he said, after a beat, his eyes widening.
"I don't believe that," I said. "I think someone just makes some of this stuff up."
He motioned for me to read it with my own two eyes, as if that would convince me. I leaned over his shoulder and read, adding a little ah-ha at the end. I kissed the side of his face, just above the jagged line of stubble. I said: I'm going to order in. You want the usual?
If I'm counting right, I haven't seen him for seven years. But I still remember those facts he rattled off. His voice recites them to me when I grocery shop, or times like now, when I'm standing barefoot in my stuffy kitchen preparing beef brisket. A bottle of Worcestershire sits open on the countertop, sauce clinging to the lip. Anchovies... says Serge in my head. This image I can't get out of my mind: all those fish and their glistening thin bodies and their tiny eyes, an endless number of them swimming against the current.
Anchovy bones, he whispers.
"Stop," I insist, trying to forget. I picture Serge on a train, and the train speeding away into the distance, until it's just a speck. A trick my therapist taught me, if you have to know. At first I'd been skeptical. I'd asked: but what if the train comes back? And my therapist had said: well, maybe it will. In fact, it probably will. But at least it's gone for a while.
Fiction Friday is an outlet for experimentation while I slowly work on becoming a novelist. Read the rest of the stories here...