Five minutes passed
since he stopped screaming, and she,
crying. Smell of burnt rice was her cue
to run into the kitchen and eat her last words
along the way. She turned off the stove,
lifted the lid of eggplant stew
and felt the steam, a hot slap
across her face. He swallowed his pride
and helped her set the table. Lunch time,
he mumbled. I heard the safe word
and peeked out of my room, like a prisoner,
exonerated for at least part of the day.
There was nothing like the marrying aroma of turmeric
and saffron on a lazy Sunday. We sat around the table
and savored every bite. Shared a few smiles
here and there. He served the rice,
and she passed the salt, as if nothing was wrong.
There was no fighting at mealtime.
That was the unwritten treaty, passed on
from generation to generation.
Then he took his last bite and she,
her last sip. Dirty dishes stacked up in the sink,
like a pile of resentment, waiting to be claimed.
And I held on to my spoon for as long as I could.
—Shakiba Hashemi (The Indianapolis Review)