Stephanie Cairns
In the Kitchen

In my kitchen, next to the sink, sits a plant that has been dying since the day I bought it, chile peppers shriveled like bright red fingers turned to prunes in water.
In the kitchen my mother crowds one, two, three pumpkin pies on the counter, using the recipe we’ve had since I was in Girl Scouts.  My grandmother rinses potatoes, and my father laughs a little too loudly, trying to defend himself to my grandfather.  Leanne picks out the white meat, and I have memories of bringing Ramiro home for Thanksgiving three years ago.  He kissed me at the table, and my father stood up to load the dishwasher, something I never saw him do in all my childhood. 
In the kitchen of my college house in Tucson, the one on Helen and Stuart behind Casa Video with the great little porch, my sister and I sip red wine and share a meal.  She tells me she respects me, my life, my relationship.  These days she just tells me what to do and acts like my mother, like she doesn’t trust me alone.  I have to keep my mouth shut otherwise I’ll tell her she has a lot of growing up to do.
In the kitchen Peter scrubs the burners on the stove as if he’s trying to scour off a layer, and explains to me that he’s anal, that he once dated a girl who was the same and that’s why they broke up.  I wonder if I can handle this guy, this one who’s trying to make clean something I can’t even tell needs cleaning, who’s trying to scrape metal off metal.
In the kitchen of his studio apartment Ramiro makes me Brazilian eggs with green onions and tells me that the reason his cooking is so good is that it is done with love.  I think how great it is to be loved by someone, how guilty I feel about not feeling guilty I don’t feel the same way.
In the kitchen I chop onions fine as confetti, sliver red peppers the color of heat, simmer ginger in coconut milk, let the steam flush out the strain of the day.
In the kitchen hang the pictures I took at the garden, an agave with scarlet tips unfolding itself in rosette fashion, and a slipper plant, bright, vivid green and candy pink, slightly out of focus in the foreground of a sky so blue it’s hard to believe it’s real. 
In the kitchen, there are too many cooks, one mixing, one tasting, one licking his fingers, one loving, one failing, one falling apart.