The Carnivore and the Vegetarian

by: Julia Bouwsma

He is still at work. She is at home stalking the narrow light of their kitchen. She closes her eyes. When her feet stop moving it will be time to open them. She will raise her eyes carefully to clock on the wall. It will be time to start making his salad.

She starts with the lettuce, seizing the middle in one fist and tossing the outer leaves away with the other. Only the small leaves for him. The ones that are glistening and green. She tears them gently, rinses them, spins them dry.

A dull paring knife will rip a tomato’s skin, will send the fruit bursting, trickling into the furrow between cuffed sleeve and watchband. She is not one to let her knives dull. She keeps them in a neat row in front of the stove, their sharp points shining downwards. But there is something about the feel of a tomato seed as it slides between her knuckles. And there is always one knife that she keeps in a drawer and cannot bring herself to sharpen.

Running a spoon along the inside of an avocado, she allows her finger to sweep the secret edge between rough and smooth. Just a quick press reminds her of the ridge of flesh between his upper lip and nose.

The cucumbers come last. Little sinister smiles. She always leaves the peels on, despite his complaints. It’s the best part: watching him slide his teeth in a flash of perfect white arc.

She never eats when he does. Instead she stares at him from across the wooden table. He has a dimple on his chin. It twitches when he chews. He eats slowly, deliberately. His eyes rarely leave his plate.

She watches him through a glass of wine. Burgundy shadows flickering, hand to mouth. Tonight there are artichokes before the salad, young frostbitten ones. She gives him two. She worries sometimes that he will grow thin. She gives him butter with lemon. She gives him mayonnaise with Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar.

And she lights a cigarette while she watches. He runs his teeth coarsely through the outer leaves. She stares at the narrow ridges left from the cracks between his teeth. This is the only time she ever smokes.

He piles the scraped leaves on the table. The inner ones he bites in half. He scoops the thistles out of the center with the side of his fork. When he eats the heart it is with small bites and always in a circular motion.

She has trained herself to be still. She moves only her hands. Her cigarette from mouth to ashtray. Her glass of wine. It is not easy. Her finger keeps circling the rim. He has started the salad.

There is a tomato seed on his lip. She wants to get up. She wants to cross the room and bend her body over his. To cup his moving throat in her hands, kneading harshly at the tendon behind his jaw. To jerk away suddenly, the tomato seed in her own mouth.

But he flicks the seed with his tongue, dislodges a celery string from with a quick scoop of the thumbnail.

And then it is on to the cucumbers. And she is breathing between her front teeth, hands folded behind her back.

When she sleeps it is with one hand pressed between his thighs, fingers stretched in a perfect octave over his scars.

The largest scar the same color as her nipple.

Like a giant grain of orzo, he tells her. He is stretched across the bed, kneading his toes through the sheet.

He tells her and she laughs. She does not say the shape is smooth and angular

like her right canine (longer then the left).

He has woken in the night to find it grazing his shoulder.

He has woken in the night and found her asleep, a slow smile twisting her lips.

In her dreams she circles a thigh, wrapping it, thickening it with long, pink strips of bacon.