She takes to the job with such eagerness, the jefe promotes her within a month to the esteemed position of supervisor. She prefers the word “care” to that of “supervise” because care is something she spends a great deal of time cultivating. She loves the produce she cares for. She holds tomatoes like baby birds and slices cantaloupes with the finesse of a sous chef. She rubs zucchinis and cucumbers until they reflect the fluorescent lights smiling above them. She pats potatoes fondly and carefully places the ripest kiwis at the top of the perfect pyramid she builds in an afternoon.
Her love of produce began after he left. It started in the garden. She spent so much time in the garden, she felt wise as earthworms she uncovered while tilling the compact red clay. She gave each of the worms names, female of course, usually pop icons. The voluptuous one she called Jessica Simpson, the feisty one, Jessica Alba. She called the longest Queen Latifah because the innocence in stereotypes became her like the dirt-caked gloves she donned on the satisfyingly backbreaking days of weeding. She removed quartz and granite, dropped them in a 5-gallon bucket, called them Cain and Abel.
Her earrings are halved lemons, and she wears them with a silent pride, and the day he stops in, he comments on them. And, that is enough. She spends months on the words; she gauges pitch and tone and the expression he wore as he said it. She peels cucumbers. She mixes them with chopped onion, slivered basil, sliced soft mozzarella, ground peppercorns, balsamic vinegar and calls this a salad.
She guards her sentiments as she did her herbs. Zealous, she tries ten different pestos, exacting each recipe with the proper nut, the proper basil. She finds cinnamon basil works best in her pastas for him. He always furrowed his brow at the pungency of the meal, the aromatics of the day’s glean. He frowned at the cost of the pine nuts for her most savory find- walnut, truffle olive oil, thai basil, spicy garlic.
He never noticed the orzo she made with this concoction of delicate flavors. He could not find the delicate in a flavor if it screamed at him.