Cyber Monday

Anne Rasmussen

10-Piece 2.25"-10.25" Glass Nesting Bowl Set
“Nesting set of 10 includes a size for every task.”


There’s something infinitely pleasing about nesting bowls, how they fit into each other like round, glass Matryoshka dolls. From punchbowl to mixing bowl, from soup bowl to salad bowl to custard bowl to prep bowl, each one emerges from its predecessor in a smaller and smaller form until it threatens to disappear entirely: a doll’s bowl, a thimble, a doll’s thimble, a parasite’s bowl, like the expectations I had for you, revised and revised again, from what I hoped to what I wanted, from what I deserved to what I could live with, from what you wanted to give me to what you were able to give me. 


The bowl I’m left with is invisible to the naked eye—some go so far as to claim it’s nonexistent. Even with magnifying lenses my most patient and tolerant friends squint and strain to bring it into focus: that irritating grain of sand lodged within the oyster shell of my heart, still trying for a pearl.

 

OXO ® Hand Held Mandoline

“With a soft-grip knob, sharp stainless blade, and view-through base OXO®’s versatile, hands-on prep tool cuts even slices in three thicknesses onto a cutting board or right over a plate or bowl.” 


If you’d asked me to close my eyes and guess, I’d have pictured a stringed instrument, a smaller, feminized mandolin perhaps, designed to underscore a Fado singer’s aching voice. 
I’d think of your hands when you played that guitar someone left at a bus stop, the one you so easily claimed when your bus arrived. I’d think about how you grew up holding a cello’s curves between your knees, how your adolescent hands learned to pluck, apply pressure, find the harmonics up and down its neck, how you could elicit moans from its wooden body long before your peers stumbled into puberty.


I told my mother you played cello as a way to balance out the fact that you smoked. I left out the story of teenaged-you backing your parents’ car over the instrument where you’d left it in their driveway—a modern ode to the absent-minded, all splintered wood and metal strings popping, an improvised, unrepeatable performance, played to an empty cul-de-sac. When I first heard the tale, I saw in you a kindred spirit: as hapless as I was, but confident enough to spin it into a funny story. No one could ever be angry at you. Your carelessness was just another facet of your charm.


Of course, my eyes are open, so I now know that the Hand Held Mandoline is a culinary instrument whose “sharp stainless blade” puts me more in mind of a surgical suite than your kitchen-to-be: a seat of shared domesticity, of housewarmings and dinner parties and potlucks and whatever joyful future occasions might call for “even slices in three thicknesses.” 


Bodum ® Assam Tea Press
“Refined brewing for the best cup of tea. Simply place your favorite tea leaves in the infuser, add boiling water, and wait until the desired strength is reached. A press of the plunger stops the brewing so you can start enjoying a fresh cup of tea; there's no mess and no need to remove the strainer.” 


You wanted to go to the Village to buy her a teapot.


“[She] likes tea,” you said, naming her, lifting the chipped owl mug to your lips, leaning back against my pillows. 


It was inadvisable for you to cancel your plane ticket for that Thanksgiving visit, we’d agreed. Think of the money already spent, months ago, when you hadn’t imagined yourself moving on so quickly.


And who wants to miss out on a long weekend in New York?


There you were in my bed, as though you’d never left it. There you were the next morning, drinking the black coffee I brought you in the mug with the owls you’d always favored. Those owls and I had journeyed across time zones and state lines only to wait, untouched, for you to follow. I’d thought if I kept enough of these talismans I could draw you back to our shared history, that mashup of habits and loyalties that requires no preamble or explanation.


Maybe that’s why you felt so comfortable bringing her up with me, as casually as you might have suggested whether we should catch the matinee or evening show at the Film Forum. 
I couldn’t even feel myself flinch. Or maybe it was all I could feel.


It was hard for [her], letting you visit me, you said, naming her again. She’d been hurt and betrayed by men before, this tea-drinker who’d been so generous to spare you for a long weekend, her fears aligning with my hopes like two terrible halves of the same zipper.


My body, your restraint: the perfect object lesson for teaching this girl (so young, so fragile) to trust you. 


I wish I could say I snatched the mug from your hands, smashed it against the wall before you could name her again. I wish I could say I threw you out of the apartment (or even my bed) for the rest of your stay. But all I could do was steer us clear of the Village and its imagined trove of teapots, send you home to her as empty-handed as you’d come. 


We’d always been coffee people, you and I. Perhaps she can teach you something about boiling points, about refined brewing that leaves no mess.

 

Otto Pepper Mill
“Stylish brushed stainless and acrylic Turkish salt mill features a fully adjustable ceramic grinding mechanism that produces a coarse to fine grind by adjusting the knob.”


We hardly ever fought, that was the thing. I took it as a sign we were compatible. When you reached for the knob I was ready to change for you. If you’d told me what you needed I could have adjusted the mechanism. 


Do you think we’d make good parents? you asked me once. Your timing was odd—we had just broken up, you were heading out the door, a literal “doorknob conversation,” as therapists call it.


Merriam Webster lists two definitions for “Millstone.” 

  • either one of two large, round stones used for grinding grain in a mill

  • a problem or responsibility that does not go away and that makes it difficult or impossible to do or achieve something


You mentioned children one other time. We were back together—a harder pairing this time: me holding on as lightly as I could, you playing out the clock before you moved on to another state, another life, another woman. Your best friend’s girlfriend was pregnant, you told me. He’d been planning to break things off with her, but now…


Promise me that will never happen, you said.


For a while you still phoned me to report on your troubles with my replacement. You fought all the time; she was too young, you said, too emotional, too volatile, too unstable. I hardly needed to say a word. I merely provided the white noise of my nerves, the panicked, staticky tingling of my scalp and gums, which you took for agreement. You couldn’t articulate your attraction to her and that frustrated you. It’s not just the sex, you explained. 


Was it the coarseness or the fineness of her grind?

 

Wüsthof ® Classic 7" Hollow Ground Santoku Knife
“Forged blade is tempered and hardened steel with a long-lasting, V-ground edge. Full tang adds weight and balance. High-carbon, no-stain blade is easy to sharpen.”


It’s a funny thing about online registries—how much information they contain. Not just which items you requested, and their cost, but how many have already been ticked off the list. You or I can check it 24/7, casually or obsessively. Separate but together, we can watch your future kitchen populate itself in real-time.


When a set is completed, the word “Fulfilled” appears to the right to prevent the embarrassment of too many Flat Handle Spreaders or an unmentionable surplus of French Wire Whisks amassing like troops along the border of your perfect day. The registry never sleeps—it is even more vigilant than I, if that can be believed, tallying your domestic spoils into declarations of fulfillment. 


I hope you’ll have space for all those Essential 7” bowls, the green and yellow plates, the Stainless Steel and Nylon Muddler. Your friends and family have really come through, as you knew they would. 


FULFILLED, FULFILLED, FULFILLED, FULFILLED, chants the far right column as I scroll past your new Tea Press, your Pepper Mill, your Mandoline and Nesting Bowls. By now all your requests have been granted save the solitary Wüsthof Hollow Ground Santoku Knife, standing its lonely ground. 


(Do you remember when I asked you to stop contacting me and you argued that we should stay in touch because you were, in your words, a fundamentally lonely person?)


At $129.00, the Wüsthof’s price point is a bit steep for your social circle of perennial grad students, freelancers and adjunct instructors. But why not your parents? Is it bad luck to purchase a knife for one’s favorite son? Tempered steel for a golden boy?


Why this knife, I wonder? Did its Germanic name draw you in? Those romantic umlauts?

 

Or was it the evocative, poetic ring of “Hollow Ground?” Did you misread it at first, as I did, as Hallowed Ground?


The internet tells me that a hollow ground blade is for slicing, not chopping. It has a concave, beveled edge, like a straight razor: “sharp but weak.” I could use one to carve my useless, dry-cured rage into more palatable, paper-thin slices. I could wrap it around melon balls, serve it to your guests.


The cursor hovers over the Add to Cart button, my mouse finger itching to click. Free shipping, it beckons. I picture my gift airborne, sharp but weak, covering all those miles and years and unfinished conversations between us. Unsigned, of course.

 

I picture you lifting it out of the box, admiring the heft of its tang, the light glancing along its no-stain blade. 


Who is it from? [She] asks, and you shrug.


 

 

 

 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

Anne Rasmussen holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She has taught writing in jail, advised graduate students, and constructed giant bear costumes worn by Rockettes. She edits Late Night Library’s Late Night Interview column and reads fiction entries for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net. Her interview with author Jim Grimsley was included in the paperback edition of How I Shed My Skin (Algonquin Books, 2016). She sympathizes with unreliable narrators.