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Katrina Gray

January 2010

I grabbed a handful of butter and lifted the loose skin off the breast side of the chicken. I smeared the butter inside and closed the flap down. The last thing to do was tie the chicken's legs together with kitchen twine and stick it in the oven. But I realized I didn't know where the twine was, not here anyway.

I knew right where it was in my old house. Second drawer on the right when you enter the kitchen from the dining room. It’s not something I’d thought to stock my kitchen with here—here, where I still did not own a matching set of cereal bowls.

If I walked in there—there, where we had jointly accumulated things like kitchen twine—I could grab it and be on my way. It was in a familiar spot, but one that didn't exist for me anymore.

I thought of driving over there across town, steering with buttered hands. I’d step up on the porch and knock on the green door with my elbow, holding my hands up like I'm about to wash them, or dry them, palms facing my shoulders.

“Hey,” I would say to my ex-husband when he opens the door, “Mind if I get the kitchen twine? I'll just be a second—” I'd step in before he had time to answer, and I'd maybe even towel off my hands at the sink. Those things would be familiar too—the towels and the sink, the window facing the crepe myrtle.

The cheap cream sherry would catch my eye, and I’d remember that there was none in my apartment. I’d pour some, but I'd have to dust off the tulip-shaped glass first. What if I sat down, then? I picked the couch out myself; I was entitled. I cleaned his niece's vomit off it once. I slept on it twice.

“This coffee table is a comfy place to put up your feet,” I'd tell him. I'd pat the pillow beside me, signaling to him to make himself at home. I'd grab the remote from the side table. “Did you DVR Oprah?”

But he wouldn’t answer. He’d be quiet the whole time. He would hope I would leave if he acted like I wasn't there.

After too much sherry, I'd have to pee. The hall bathroom was mine, with my shampoos and my creams. I'd sit on the toilet, and even the toilet would feel like home. I would know to hold down the handle until the end of the flush.

Then I would get sleepy, and I would wander to the bedroom, beat. My side would still be on the left, because the alarm clock is on the right. I couldn't be trusted with the snooze button, he had said. I would curl up and fall asleep by familiar streetlight, under the down comforter my aunt bought us for our wedding. The room would smell like our two smells together, and I would be able to really smell it this time, being new to it. He would be too afraid to wake me.

By morning, I will have forgotten about the chicken. And the twine.

“This is not what I want,” I told him when I signed the papers. I couldn't even cry anymore. I was trapped, gagged, bound.

He acted haughty, handing me a pen: “This is what you need.”

But he has no idea what I need. Right now, I need kitchen twine, and someone to help me eat this goddamn chicken.

Katrina Gray lives and writes in Nashville, Tennessee, where she also serves as a childbirth mentor and postpartum doula. She blogs, etc. at www.katrinagray.com

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