Martha-The Rewrite Chapter One
I shall not surrender to a sauce. I will not be held against my will by the shapeshifting of a poxy roux. I shall beat thee with my kitchen sticks and you shall lay before me and worship me as the queen of all cuisine.
Béchamel is alchemy. I should think that I have made this sauce a thousand times and it never ceases to amaze me. Each time I cut a knob of butter, let it spread across the steel, watch as the flurry of flour wraps itself around this newly born liquid. I stir, my elbow high as if I am digging a hole into the pan. The butter surrenders and as I stir, a pale beast is formed. This is where my anxiety decides to take the front seat, my heart joins in, big bass drum. This mutant gloop will never be that glossy sauce. It shall never be fit to slide itself across a lasagne sheet, falling into crevices along the way, lapping at the side of an oven dish. The milk lifts up the mess and sends it spinning around, tumbling in the tide. My spoon swishes them around, droplets of white leap towards me, my chin wet with this frenzy. The whisk enters, as hero to the piece, its curved might brings us all together. I let the whisk rest for a while and I look again in complete marvel at this everyday miracle. A bubble slurps its way upwards and winks at me as I peer in. It has happened again, we did it. I can see why people buy the jars, this is fucking exhausting.
I look down into the pan and give it an idle stir with the whisk. My pride is so small, yet so warm inside me. I allow myself a nice sigh that takes away the last tingles of fear. I seem to have rolled a cigarette. This happens, they appear at my fingertips without warning. I take my new friend out the front and set fire to his head. The last of the sun is on my face and my skin prickles, I can feel sweat readying itself. My arse sits heavily on the garden wall and I can feel myself curl into a comfy slump. I lost today. It flew by me and barely said a word. Things happened and stuff was done, I’m almost certain. If I look into my memory, there are scenes, they are flung together by a sporadic and unreliable editor. I permanently have the feeling that I have forgotten to do something and that it will catch me out in the most horrific of ways. Before I discovered direct debits, this was worse. Now I forget other things, smaller things, like to phone my mum or to buy toothpaste. Some days I forgive myself and some days I cry because there is no hope that I will be much better tomorrow. My actual memory is fine, it’s that I remember things in the wrong order so it seems like I am forgetting them. I’ll get up at 6.30am and go to the corner shop, absolutely convinced that I need carrots, then get home and it’ll flash up on a big billboard in my head that I needed to buy coffee. Small things.
My cigarette is almost done. I don’t want to go in yet. The sun is still with me and right now, the sadness feels like it is beaten. I would like to swim around in this moment, do lengths until my body aches with it. People ask me if I have always been sad. No, I say, the other day I was fine for a few hours. No, they say, I mean always, like all your life. It is as if they want a moment, a starting point-ready, steady, sad! There wasn’t a day where I woke up and something suddenly overwhelmed me or I invited misery to lie with me. Or was there? Maybe. Perhaps I will remember one day. They want to pin my sadness on something or more likely, someone. That way it won't be my fault, right? I will be forgiven for my melancholy and they can tell each other how terrible it has all been for me, no wonder she’s like this. I never fold under their questions, I won’t give them a body.
I crush my smoke and the sun falls below the wall on the opposite side of the road. I close the front door behind me and immediately the blackness hits me. I can’t see it but it is in the air. My head slumps forward as I trudge across the front room to the kitchen. I pick up the pan and close my eyes. I don’t want to look inside, I know what is in there. I put it down on the drainer, my hand gripping the handle tight, trying to push it through the countertop to another dimension where it is not full of black sauce and wisps of smoke. I open my eyes and move the whisk through the crime scene. About a third of the sauce comes with the whisk and below it is the black hole. I want to cry. I do not. I pick up a bottle of gin from the side and drink from the bottle. I anticipate a tsunami of booze to fill me with its special joy. The reality is less thrilling as barely a single shot finally dribbles onto my tongue. I put the bottle down and look once again into the sad pan. I’ve already made the meaty bit of the lasagne. I could just use it as bolognese with some spag. No, fuck it, I promised Sash a lasagne and that beautiful lunatic child of mine will get a fucking lasagne. This does mean that I have to go out. I go to the bathroom and look in the mirror. I think I was crying before. My hair looks ridiculous. I wish hats suited me. Gin and white sauce. Go.
The corner shop is nearest but I am not buying white sauce from there. I did once and it tasted of old pennies and Sash wouldn’t talk to me for the rest of the evening. I will buy my gin there though. Once I have introduced it to some dirty tonic, how different will the £9.99 version taste to the £34.99 stuff from Waitrose. I will go to Waitrose for the sauce though. It’ll be expensive. I am not a natural Waitrose shopper. If I go there it’s out of necessity, like tonight or because I have found a £20 note in a long discarded pair of jeans. There’s a bloke down the road from me who steals from Waitrose. He sees it as an act of class war but I think he just doesn’t like paying for expensive things. I saw him a few weeks ago. He was opening his front door and pulled out a huge packet of salmon.
“Oi Marco, you been down Waitrose?”, I shouted across to him
“Yeah, dunno why I got this, don’t even like fish.”
“So why did you nick it then?”
“Cos it was £16”
I’m not sure he's going to start a revolution anytime soon. I hope he didn’t waste that salmon though. Lasagne was too ambitious for a weeknight. I wanted to make something special. I know lasagne isn’t terribly tricky but it does take time. It takes concentration too and you definitely shouldn’t go for a cigarette and muse on the nature of sadness whilst the poor white sauce blackens itself out of existence. I should have bought a pizza like a normal person.
Jesus, £2.85 for a jar of posh sauce. Maybe I should start nicking stuff from there too. The gin was £9.99 from the shop and is almost impossible to get fully drunk on. The bottle of tonic has a friendless bubble that bobs around before flying away to a better place. The lasagne looks good. In the oven it bubbles away, popping out pockets of meaty goodness. I can smile now. I tried to fuck this up and I failed to. The gin is sending me to a gentler place. I’ve set an alarm on my phone so I can’t fall asleep and burn the whole dish. This security rushes through me, I am impermeable right now, I am free for this moment. If it was like this the whole time, wouldn’t it be great? This doesn’t feel sad, this feels nice. Is this how they feel? I know it is still there, waiting to pounce. The fucker. But hey, I’ll take these clearings in the woods when they present themselves.
I check the lasagne and check the time to go. My phone beeps as I am looking at it. It’s Sash.
Dad made spag bol, lush. Miss you, see you tomorrow xx
I forgot she was staying at her dad’s tonight. I turn the oven off with a way too violent flick of the wrist. £2.85 for posh sauce. I’m an idiot.