[An excerpt from a real estate horror project in progress entitled The Trojan House]
“Babe, you have to see this one. 4 bed, 2 and half bath. Got this sort of Victorian meets mid-century thing. And the floors…”
The fucking quinoa was on fire.
She hadn’t thought that quinoa could be on fire. She still didn’t. Burned, seared to the pan, left to be soaked overnight and chipped at with fingernails. Those are things quinoa does. It does not do this. It does not get consumed in small and shimmying flames.
“… how we didn’t catch this before. Says it’s been listed for ages, but we totally searched this price range and area before. More than 3 acres. Don’t know where that’s been hiding. Whatever, you’ll… Oh fuck, is that slate?…”
But it is, it does. The tongues are almost blue now. Bigger, shimmering. Not even a rustle. Can quinoa have a mirage? She expected smoke, because something is getting burnt up and transformed and made into ash, like she had expected that she would have made a loud noise of surprise and then yelled to him that I’ll be there in a minute, babe – just sorting out the fact that the fucking quinoa is fucking on fire. But there was no smoke, there was just fire, and it did not burn up anything, it just guttered, and she did not yell out to him. She did not do anything.
He was shouting something about dual aspect layout or north facingness. Or how charming meant small but this was neither charming nor small, just really modern, but not meaning a time period, just a quality that you know when you see, perhaps in the way that it attends to materials, really attends to them.
There is heat here, and there is fire, and she stands very still in the center of the kitchen. Outside the day has fully tipped into night, and it is beginning to creep higher and higher, curling over the edges of the pot, like when snakes want out, and it takes deeper breaths, because soon the quinoa will consume not just the wall behind the stove but the whole kitchen too, the chairs and toaster, the pans licked as if they though could be tongue-flayed back to days of iron ore. The cookbooks whomp into ash without hesitation or transitionary period, the rubber seal that keeps the fridge door closed will first sag and mope then go liquid, and the fire will enter that protected space, until there is no difference between them because everything is fuel tonight, even the clock. It will swallow up their shoes and his good jeans and more than one iPad, it will destroy sideboards and sidetables and do its best on stubborn hinges, it will gorge on the fibers of the bed seeped with many single drops of cum and piss and sweat over many single nights, it won’t even mind the taste because it is not bachelor and because it is indifferent to these things, and that is how it would take her too, with indifference, like she and quinoa were composed of the same chaff, two shades of one and the same bundle of matter reflected twice in this house of mirrors, sisters face to face in their wreathes of fire, reaching out across that last space to the lost twin and there she stood and thought about whether or not quinoa constitutes an “act of God” and hence falls under their renter’s insurance or if the mirror in the hallway will first fall shattering to the ground and then melt into chrome puddles or vice versa and how it doesn’t matter anyway because there will be nothing left of the kitchen other than two identical but totally unidentifiable piles huddled close for warmth.
“Babe? You coming?”
She took the pot of flame and dropped it into the half-full sink.
And if she had stayed she would have seen, as she would see some minutes later, that the quinoa was undamaged, unburnt. Perfectly done in fact, fluffy and tender, the seeds yawning out and not a bit bitter, and if she had not left to join him she would have watched – with the same indifference through which fire transmutes pseudocereals and her alike into – how the flames kept on unabated beneath the soapy water, only to stop like a flicked switch right before she came back to assess the damage done, and even if the night’s events had taken that turn, they still would have swerved back from the possible to join the point of how things did in fact go, how they ate the quinoa and he complimented her on it and she did not mention the fire as they pored over the details of a house that had just come on to market or had been there all along, some covert wonder slipping through the cracks.