It starts with Van Morrison. His voice has texture; it’s slightly displeasing, but raw and alluring, like the onions he is frying. I never liked onions, but they work their way into a recipe in a way that makes it impossible to pick them out. The fry pan is a pain to clean; it has to soak overnight, soak for days, or until she can’t stand the sight of it anymore.
The sunlight. It streams in through the glass door, igniting the particles of dust into fire. The fingerprints on the door are no longer hidden. The sunlight sees and exposes everything.
He stretches a tightrope across the kitchen, and she ties it in a bow to the knobs on the cabinet. Here is where balance must come in. It must, or someone will fall. They will yell or they will cry or they will take one of us and they will leave. The onions still cook.
He is outside, trying to fix the grill. The mice have to move out again. Smoke rises, and a hunk of meat screams at the sky.
The sunlight is softening. We sit at the table and eat because nothing happened. Love, love, love, love crazy love. The table is silent, but the noise is full. Mouths are full. Glasses are full. Eyes are empty. The sunlight shifts, igniting a new batch of dust.
The onions. A yucky texture, but they bring everything to a dish. I push the big chunks to the side, but the small ones are inescapable.
We eat in mostly silence. My books tell me this is not what summer is supposed to look like.
Summer is everything. During summer you can sneak out down the street to see the sun set. You can sit out on the front porch and read six books a day. In summer, my sister is my best friend. We eat ice cream together and take walks in the woods with our dog. If we don’t want them, there are no onions. And for a brief time, summer means the ocean.
After dinner, he sinks down to the basement. Like a moth to flame, I want to go down there too. If I don’t, I won’t see him until he says goodnight to me, and he’ll be gone by the time I wake up tomorrow. If I do go down there, I’ll leave my mother with the dishes. She’ll look at me with pleading eyes, and neither of us will say a word.
Eventually, she will say a word, and we’ll have to have a “chat.” I’ll cringe. My throat will go very tight very quickly, and no words will come out. My mother will get mad, because silence gets no one anywhere. Silence is a sign of retreat and fear. Silencesilencesilence fills a room with noise. It is never enough noise.
—Erin Raymond, Grade 11.