I used it as a pitcher to water my Christmas tree, until I came to work for you, Gil. For the past few years, I haven’t spent enough time at home through the holidays to warrant a tree that needs water. You don’t keep a schedule during that time, but you have to be ready for each new year. You speak, you teach, you travel according to the master list I compile. Christmas time last year—alone here in the office, I sent you to Cairo and Alexandria for March. I re-organized the sculpture file labeled ‘Heads; Broken’ and cross-referenced it with ‘Limbs; Missing.’ I found a florist who would deliver parrot tulips to an ambassador’s daughter in Calcutta. She, I gather, was the Shelli of Christmas Past.
The kettle hisses as the flame licks up underneath it. I don’t remember putting it on the stove, but awareness is not a prerequisite to boiling water. I lean beside the stove with my elbows on the counter. Leo jumps up to join me, rubbing his head against my chin. Leo, why is it that the men in my life—you and Gil—only need me because I have opposable thumbs? Gil finds my typing and filing and organizing to be of value to him, and you need me to operate the can opener and work the door handle that lets you come and go.
I put an inch of nearly-boiling water into the tea pot. No chipped enamel here—one of your admirers sent you a Japanese iron pot with a feathery pine needle pattern gracing its moon-shaped sides. A pot that was old when this country was new, and you call for it as casually as if it were of no value. I spoon green tea into the ceramic filter built into the pot—the Japanese have always known how to build a better product, it seems.
Tiny white jasmine flowers curl among the green leaves of the tea, shut in upon themselves until the water makes them bloom again. Out with the warming water, in with a fresh, furious boil that releases a cloud of steam. The kettle whimpers a little as I set it on a back burner. The kitchen smells green as the magic of tea begins.