Jonathan’s fingers slipped inside his khaki pocket and extracted the key ring. It didn’t hold much – the car, the door, his parent’s door, the gym membership. The guitar case key was still on the ring; there was nowhere else to keep it. One day he’d remember to but a bottle opener on there. Until then, he’d keep an old Bic in the glove compartment.

He grasped the door handle and leaned back, pulling the door tight against the jam, before inserting the key into the deadbolt and turning. Jonathan released his grip and the door swung open, the emanated squeaks reminding him that needed to purchase WD-40. He wiped his hard soled shoes on the mat, stepped inside, and swung the door shut.

He stood in the dark entrance. It was only his second week in the apartment and it was not natural yet. The light switch was behind him to his right. Following that wall would lead him to the living room and, beyond that and two left turns, the kitchen. If he were to step forward and not to the right, he’d find the bathroom and bedroom. Either path was mined with unopened boxes, cockeyed furniture, or dirty laundry.

So he stood in the darkness, disturbing nothing but the air he breathed; in the distant living room he could hear the ticking clock. In the dark stillness of the foyer there was no mess to clean up, no couches to be rearranged. In the darkness he didn’t have to think about the progression of steps past unfinished projects, he could just be. He leaned back against the door and slid downwards until he could place his palms flat against the hardwood floor.

Jonathan. What are you doing? Why are you on the floor? You are hungry. Eat. You have things to do. Get up.

He exhaled, driving his feet into the ground, propelling his hips up and out, and arcing his back. With his right hand he mechanically brushed the mezuzah before flicking on the light. He circumvented the boxes of shoes and coats and stepped into the bedroom. There was a pile of business clothes between a laundry basket full of linens and a half empty wardrobe box. He unbuttoned the blue oxford as he kicked off the brown loafers. Throwing the shirt into the pile on the floor he grasped for the belt buckle to lower the pants from his hips. Standing in the white undershirt, boxers, and tan socks, he scanned the room, his eyes finally alighting on the black basketball shorts draped over the desk chair. One leg after the other and then each foot into the greyed Adidas Campuses.

As he exited the bedroom he killed the light. Darkness again, only momentarily, but long enough to stumble over the box of shoes. Damn. Jonathan didn’t kiss the floor, but the interruption was frustration enough. He reached the foyer again and turned left toward the living room. The darkness hid the cacophony quite neatly; there wasn’t a speck of it to be seen. He was standing on the edge of the precipice with his eyes shut, not admitting the existence of what he knew lay before him.

He swiped at the light, catching it with his fingertip and showering the room in light. All he wanted was to reach the kitchen and get some food. Nothing special, chicken, veggies, and pasta. But before him was a wasteland of the incomplete. Boxes still packed. Books haphazardly stacked on the shelves. The television was still in its box, leaning against the couch. The dining room table leaned against a wall with the legs next to it. The chairs were lined up against the perpendicular wall.

He’d spent last week eating take out or eating beer for dinner. But no longer. Take out was for the weak-willed. Take out meant others doing his work. Beer for dinner meant later penance and there was already enough of that do be performed. Both meant spending unnecessary money.

Stepping over and about half empty boxes, he waded through the mess in the living room, took that narrowest angle through the corner of the untabled dining room and found the sanctuary of the kitchen. No, he hadn’t used it yet, other than for the obligatory bowl of sugary cereal every morning, but it was the only room that was complete. This was the room of his design, and it was solely his domain. It was small, but for one person, it was all that was needed. The back wall was a solid counter with a dual basin stainless steel sink with an unnecessary InSinkerator; he would rarely use it. The best part of the sink was the pullout spray faucet, enabling a manageable cleanup of oversized bowls, pans, and the crockpot.

Oh to bust out the crockpot! The chilis, the jambalayas, the nameless delicious creations only intoned by their primary ingredients! To quickly prep and toss the ingredients into the pot before work and then return home to the mystical aromas filling the room like incense wafting from a thurible.

But tonight it’s quick and easy. Well, not fast food or beer quick and easy, but certainly not crockpot long or baking arduous.

Opening the fridge, Jonathan pulled out the chicken breast and the button mushrooms, and from the basket above he grabbed a yellow onion. From below the sink he drew a single plastic cutting board. The three ingredients sat on the counter, disparate, yet destined for communion. He drew the chef’s knife from the block along with the sharpener. He’d spent six month working in a kitchen, absorbing everything he could. If only he had the budget for all the ingredients they used, and the mental catalog of their use. Knowing the rudimentary knife skills is not knowing the exotic pairing that perfectly complement each other. The general bartending was a lot easier on that front.

The mushrooms sliced quickly, and after being peeled into the trash, so was the onion; his contacts spared him tears. He threw the vegetation into a bowl and delivered the first slice to the chicken breast.

Shoot. I forgot to start the rice. I always do that.

He quickly reached into the lower cabinet and scooped a cup from the oversized bag of jasmine and poured it into the rice cooker. After giving the rice couple rinses, he pulled two cans of chicken stock from another cabinet, emptied them into the rice cooker, and clicked it on before returning to chunk the chicken breast down into the bite size pieces.

He washed his hands before opening yet another cabinet where he had stashed the pots and pans – two stacks, assembled like Russian nesting dolls, each smaller than the one in which it sat. Lids, sometimes necessary but always obtrusive, were stored elsewhere. Selecting a midsized frying pan, he set it on the stove’s the electric coil and turned on the low heat. Gas would have been perfect, but that would have meant a higher rent or an inconvenient location.

He tossed in a glob of butter before grabbing the dry vermouth from the home bar. As the butter melted he stirred in a few splashes of the spirit; the aroma of fat and oblations cooking would have pleased any pagan deity. He dropped in the chicken chunks and as they paled over the heat, he emptied the bowl of veggies into the pan. Jonathan bent over the frying pan, filling his chest with the mystic aromas.

The rice cooker clicked off. Jonathan cut open the largest of the chicken chunks, verifying it was nothing but lifeless protein strands. No blood, no pink hues reminiscent of nonfoodism. Plating would be a superfluous activity today; everything would end mixed anyways. Rice below chicken, onions, and mushrooms. The only remaining question: sriracha or soy sauce?

The former won out. Jonathan sat on the linoleum floor, cupping the plastic bowl that held his meager chef efforts, staring at the dissembled dining hall illuminated by the kitchen light. This was his domain to rule, none to whom he must cater or defer. No irrationality to pervade the order of his cabinets. No wastefulness to be subsidized by his labor. His reign would be total, once it was established. But chaos ruled in the darkness outside the kitchen, chaos that was his to subdue. With Saturday’s morning light, the labor would begin.


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One Comment to “Domain”

  1. This is everything about why I love living by myself. Except I also like having furniture.

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