I’ll tell you right now that she is going to cut herself. That serrated knife is going to slice right through her flesh till it reaches bone. Not on this slice, or the next, but three slices from now, the tip of her finger that rests on that tomato will pour blood all over the cutting board. She will cradle her hand and stare horrified as the blood seeps through the fabric of her flower-pattern dress.
She doesn’t know it now, but the evening she was supposed to spend kowtowing to her relatives will instead be spent in the waiting room of a cold, blue-walled hospital on 9th and Forester Street. One slice through the tomato and she is just now deciding to pair it with basil. When the knife does spread the skin of her finger, it will be at an angle that she will wonder about during her out-of-body experience. The sight of blood has always made her woozy, and this wound is going to be a real squirter. Two slices in and she will realize that her uncle, the one on her father’s side, is allergic to basil. She never liked him; he smelled like a hamster cage and always got drunk at Christmas. Besides, the kids love tomato and basil, and it is the easiest thing in the world to make. She’ll fight with this decision a while, but at three slices she’ll decide, “Tomato and basil it is. Fuck Uncle Tim.”
She’ll arrange the red tomato slices on a plate in concentric circles topped with basil and drizzled with olive oil. Then she’ll decide she needs one more slice.
Tiara Shelley is a woman who writes best under pressure.
Illustration by Alex Fukui.