It’s acceptable when you ask for it with a burger. It becomes part of someone’s job to ask you, part of your role to answer, to smile.
I’m smiling now, but in a way which is not conventional or asked for. I’m in the house alone with the heating turned off, and the cold is starting to crawl over the surfaces. I feel it on the chopping board before I feel the marble itself. Smiling, finding it amusing almost, that the most expensive surface in our house is typically stained by the juices of mangled fruit and vegetables.
An onion cuts clean though, only perhaps with the slight fizz of regret. Almost like an annoyance. I still smile.
I feel a kind of confirmation that I can mould the onion, like a long-misted lightbulb locked in a brown paper, to a mass of silver-hued rings. I can imagine them clattering but without sound. They wrap around only each other. The knife is blunt (the knives were are always blunt, over-worked, gored for their purpose) and starts to snag on the flesh, like protest. I have already unhooked the brown skin, as if completing a ritual undressing. Like a person rolls their sleeve up for the needle, and the sleeve is both inconsequential and immaterial.
Close your eyes. Sometimes I play this game with myself. Scissoring the knife through the flesh of an onion without looking. Sometimes it is the thrill which makes the day. And if I slip, ah, sending this blundering metal through skin and mingling with blood, this makes me ‘mad’. If I complete the ring I am ‘normal’, I am ‘cooking’, I am ‘enjoying myself’.
Strange, how definitions change when cutting an onion.
Occasionally the rings seem to roll a kind of acridity which occupies the corner of my eyes like small weight. It is acceptable to cry whilst cutting onions, though not acceptable to cry when cutting apples. Not acceptable to stand with a knife cutting an apple crying even though you know cutting the apple is why you are crying, seeing a pattern of beauty slit through, and not feeling hungry and only wanting to feel occupied, occupied, occupied. People don’t tend to trust crying with a knife, except onions.
Strange how the word ‘except’ is like ‘accept’, isn’t it, yet so different. Sticking like onion-skin in my gullet.
I scrape the rings into a cereal bowl. If I fry them this makes me ‘conventional’, if I fry them and press my hand in the hot oil and wait for sensation this makes me ‘mad’. But I feel no heat and do neither. I cross to the fridge and take out plastic bottle of tomato ketchup. It allows me to layer a design of sudden red stain over the onions.
I would call my designs abstract. Some would call them nothing.
Eat. I stand with one hip against the kitchen counter, eating a bowl of raw onions with tomato ketchup. I know what an act it is to slice them. The emptiness of the house despite it bring filled with objects, the sound of cold vegetable flesh squeaking against my teeth. I don’t really taste, only witness. Sometimes I don’t feel at all, I simply occupy space, time, expectation, for a while.
But right now I eat raw onions, feeling the acridity fizzing at my lips, the sharp shock of vinegar in the cheap tomato sauce. My face is dripping.
It is unacceptable practice.
It is acceptable damage.