Chopping the celery, using a knife from the church kitchen that someone must have donated, I heard her say she doesn’t really have any friends. She went on to tell me that she has acquaintances but no one that she can call to tell what goes on behind the scenes, tell the truth to. I diced the celery smaller, I ruminated that I didn’t have my superior Henkel chef knife from home. I listened as she expressed her loneliness and expertly told that maybe it is okay at our age not to have close friends, but I have a couple. The celery was complete, on to the onions.
I know the ask behind the words and I didn’t offer. like the inferior knife, the tiny cutting board, I know I have little to give her. Guarding my time, my energy, I justify not offering my phone number for the calls she longs to make. She knows I end up on Janet’s couch all too often, she has participated in the studies we have facilitated. I can’t hide what I get but I shield what I could give, afraid. The onions slide, I wonder if I will cut myself with the dull blade as they move about on the plastic board. Why didn’t I bring my toes from home for this task? I have all the right stuff, I could have made this job easier, safer, more efficient. She talks on, describing this person and that who just don’t understand. She has taken her mask off with me many times as we work in the kitchen, we know each other over boiling pots and mismatched plates.
Do friendships begin with this kind of intentional request? Is that how people begin to trust each other. How many onions do you want in the slaw, I ask. Do you think 4, she says, as we consider the size of the expected crowd and work out how to adjust the recipe. We have cooked together for over a year now, she often just shows up when I am leading a meal exactly when I need her. The peppers are next, Diced or strips? None of the vegetables are organically grown I notice, all are planted and cultivated and harvested and now sitting on the counter of our shared kitchen church. Organic relationships are much like the perfect knife or the loch ness monster, something I have heard about but never believed exists. No even little kids on the playground start with an invitation to swing or an ask to push the merry-go-round, why am I holding out?
I can’t offer her perfection but I have e a couch and a phone. I can offer my myself, all that she really would want, I think. Imperfect tools cut, still dice the peppers, the onions become bite sized nibbles and the slaw becomes a masterpiece. We are already friends, I wish I had told her. Call me.