3-quart saucepan, Stainless steel, removed from the – forever disorganized – pots and pans cupboard. Elsa stands up, moves her body over to the Double-Basin sink. She sighs. The side with the garbage disposal is still clogged. Damn James for putting it off. Elsa pushes up the sleeves on her worn-out pink bathrobe. Just never mind him. Eyes on the water faucet. Her shaky right hand reaches out to grab a handle. Oops. Wrong one. That one’s got a red dot – for hot. She wants the opposite one, with the non-existent blue dot which rubbed off long ago. Yes, that’s the one – eggsactly. Water on cold. Elsa fills the pan.
Smudged, faded wallpaper: teacups on a beige background. Elsa’s left hand reaches out – to pick the peeling seam just over the sink. Right hand she thrusts in the pan, feeling the water level rising. She can’t help but notice. The brown cake batter splatter on the wall, right next to the cupboard on her left. Devil’s Food Cake. Jimmy’s birthday party a month ago. Pan almost full. Water off. Well, if you don’t count the dripping.
Harvest Gold refrigerator. Grubby, greasy handle. Elsa grabs the disgusting thing, yanks it open and cringes. Mold in the seal on the door. Soft drink spills on the tops of the crisper shelves. “Sick, you’re dirty and sick, you should clean this, Elsa!” James is speaking to her now, even though he’s not there. She closes her eyes to block out the hurt, and grips too tightly the carton. One dozen Grade Double A eggs. Extra large. Cold, white and bumpy. Delicate, but tough! She likes to think of herself that way. Gingerly, oh, so tenderly, Elsa lowers the white oval delights into the pan (single layer of course), lest the cold water crack the shells. Then she remembers. I shoulda put the eggs in first. James is right. She is so forgetful!
Head hanging, back slumped, she creeps to the awkward gas stove. It rocks back and forth and it scares her. Tick, tick, tick. Poof! Blue-yellow flames. Thank God, it didn’t explode. But, what if the whole thing blows up next time? It’s not, it’s not NORMAL for stoves to be rickety. Elsa knows this. She steadies herself against its slick white edge, being careful to place the pot handle toward the center, just like Grandma taught her. She sets the kitchen timer. Ten minutes and then she’ll move it from the burner to sit for awhile. A snack sounds good. Elsa turns to face the icebox. Becky’s drawing is crooked. Again. The magnets aren’t strong enough. She smiles, straightens the tattered-edged picture, wondering what Becky was thinking when she made it. Forget the snack. Elsa’s frowning now. She knows. James has told her a thousand times. “You should be a better role model, for the kids, you don’t want them turning out to look like you, do you?” The scale, she thinks of it now, too, and backs away from the fridge. She stands in the center of the too tiny kitchen, lost in dismay and despair until – beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep. Timer snaps her out of it.
Back to the Kenmore. Elsa spies the deeply etched wooden spoon propped handily in the utensil holder. Mr. Sturdy she calls that stirring device. It used to be her mother’s. She wipes off the brown dust stuck to the edges. Bleck. Whatever it is. Crap, she forgot the bowl. Hastily, she dashes two steps to the dish strainer to snatch the blue plastic bowl, the one she always uses for egg salad. It’s eggsellent for this purpose, she thinks, laughing to herself. Peel the eggs quickly under running water. If she hurries she can watch Dr. Phil from the beginning. Eggs in the bowl. Plunk, plunk. Roughly, she breaks up the whole eggs with trusty Mr. Sturdy. She watches the transformation, from intact, to chunks, her hands swirling eggspertly. Egg yolk, egg white, egg yolk, egg white, egg yolk, egg white. Elsa slows down some. She mixes more gently now, as the motion soothes her. Oh, the MAYONNAISE, right! She finds it on the top shelf of the Frigidaire, pushed all the way to the back, of course. Plop, she dumps some in. Not enough. Plop. Plop. Stir. Yellow piece, white piece, yellow piece, white piece, yellow piece, white piece. Salt. Pepper. Mustard. She forgets the celery. Stir, stir, stir. And then, it’s thoroughly mixed. Mixed. Mixed up? She feels mixed up.
Elsa picks up the blue bowl, filled with egg salad, is almost to the icebox when – when – when – she drops the bowl, crumples to the floor and realizes she can’t take it anymore. She can’t, she just can’t FEEL LIKE THIS anymore. Forget egg salad. Forget Dr. Phil. She runs to the phone, YES RUNS – to call her doctor. She trusts him. He’d tried to give her a number last time. This time she’s calling. Right NOW. She won’t be egged-on anymore. At least she has her humor, still, yes, still. Hands trembling, Elsa dials the phone. She will be whole, yes, she will, like those beautiful, perfect eggs. Elsa is determined. She cries when the secretary answers. This is it. She is doing it. Freeing herself, finally, from the pain.