Just a Little Spice Will Do

When Alex arrived home Sunday night with an overflowing grocery bag tucked under each arm, she saw her girlfriend doubled over at the waist, retching violently into the kitchen sink.

“Lindy?” She dropped both bags and rushed over.Lindy gripped the edge of the counter and heaved again, spitting a viscous strand of amaranth red into the stainless steel sink; it came out of her in small globules strung together like Christmas lights. Alex put one hand on her back and the other on her shoulder, but Lindy flinched, shuddering as if they were blocks of ice. It was then Alex noticed the rectangular Tupperware container on the countertop to Lindy’s right. Next to it, a thin sausage wedge of Alex’s heart beat gently on one of her mother’s China plates. She looked inside the plastic container and noticed a new gash in the organ, a little south of the left atrium.

She frowned. “I told you I’d be right back with stuff for dinner.”

Lindy turned, glared at Alex. “Figures you wouldn’t want me to taste this!”

“Taste what? Lindy, love, I don’t understand.”

“It’s rotten!” She pointed accusatorily at Alex’s heart.

“That’s not possible.” Alex surveyed her heart.Several small wedges had been cut away—battle scars pocking the bruise-coloured surface. The organ beat calmly, like clockwork, like there was absolutely nothing wrong. “Looks just fine to me.”

Lindy thrust a blood- and fatty tissue-coated fork at Alex. “Try it yourself. Go ahead, make a liar out of me.”

“Lindy —”

“Taste it! Then try and tell me everything’s fine.”

Alex relented, accepting the fork. She suspected her heart would taste a little off no matter what, in that way that anything chilled tasted at room temperature. She could feel Lindy staring at the back of her head, wearing her mother’s scowl—the same Alex had seen when, after six months together,they went on a week’s vacation to Johannesburg to meet her parents. Lindy’s mother had taken one look at the pale, freckled Irish girl with the decidedly un-Irish name and told her daughter that she would starve to death on someone with such a sour, unfeeling heart. Lindy was quick to protest, but her mother silenced her as if she were still in primary school. She sniffed the air between them, wafting in then imperceptible scent of their nascent vintage. “There’s poison in you,” she said, at last, to Alex. “You’ll ruin my good girl. You’ll be the death of her.”

Neither spoke afterwards of the incident. Indeed, Alex had very nearly forgotten about it, and likely would have were it not for Lindy standing behind her at that moment, waiting expectantly for her to sample her own disposition.

Alex carved a small triangle from the space above the left ventricle. She put it to her nose, sniffed. She heard Lindy tsk dismissively, as if Alex were admitting complicit behaviour in whatever it was she was being accused of. Not wanting to give her further ammunition, Alex forked the tiny fragment of muscle into her mouth and started to chew. It was tougher than she remembered—a little like biting into a half-inch slab of pickled ginger—but it tasted the same as it ever had, like unsalted ham with a slight metallic aroma.

“It tastes fine,” she said after swallowing. “Like normal.”

Lindyappeared wounded. “I never thought you’d do this to me. I didn’t think you could do this. To me.”

“Love, I don’t—”

“You’re lying!” Lindy shouted. “It tastes rotten, like, like bad eggs, or beef left on a sidewalk in the rain.”

“How would you know what either of those taste like?” Alex said jokingly.

“Don’t—” Lindy pointed to the heart again. “It’s gone bad. It isn’t . . .You’ve let someone else taste it, haven’t you?”

“What? No, of course not!”

“Don’t lie to me!”

“I’m not!” They were interrupted just then by a sharp thumping against the wall—their neighbours to the west.Alex exhaled, lowered her voice. “I’m telling you the truth.”

Lindy looked away, wiped tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. “There’s still so much of it left. I don’t understand how.”

“It’s yours and yours alone. I swear it.”

Lindy shook her head. “I . . . I just don’t know if I . . .”

Alex took her hand. Lindy resisted at first, then let her squeeze, pull her closer. Alex stared at her lovingly. “Everything I am belongs to you.”

 

>>Glittership, 2017

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