Tapenade. Gro Dahle


Din volumul „Hvor som helst, hvem som helst”.

It was the tapenade. The one he’d had with her when they had been in Paris last time. The olive and tomato tapenade. She didn’t know where she was going to put it. On the shelf with the flour and the sugar and the flat bags of soup and sauces? In the fridge? In the storage room? She went about for three days asking herself where was the best place to put it. On the fourth day she thought it belonged there, on the countertop. There was also a nicely shaped glass and a label that was decorative and tasteful. So she left it there.

There was something else with the red onion. She left it lying on the front of the countertop. She simply got rid of it after the dinner preparations, just pushed it to the side. Yes, she pushed the red onion into the wall next to the tapenade and left it. And there it remained lying. Not alone for long. It got company. It was the bowl of grapes that still had few left in it. She thought maybe she’d have them for supper, but when the evening came she had forgotten about them and instead ate an apple and drank a cup of tea.

The day after, the mail was hanging at the edge of the counter. It was not advertising, which went straight into the paper collection, but not personal mail either, that would have been opened immediately, nor was it bills. It was just a bank statement, and she was going to take care of it, she would place it next to the other papers, just not now, a little later. Thus, it was there. And it attracted several things, attracted a change of address release, a glove that had actually been lying on the floor, a hammer.

Now the countertop was messy, she saw it, she thought about it, she had to take the hammer into the storage room, but not right now, she would take it later. And the hammer drew half a pack of biscuits from brunch, the butter was also there and a newly washed plastic container she should have put in the cupboard. But she could not wait for it. So she went to the store. And that’s when it really took off, for she left all the goods on the counter. There was no room in the closet. And there had to be somewhere she could put them. Besides, she would use most of them for dinner. There was the bag of tomatoes. There was the pack of scallions. There were two cans of cherries. And the can of peaches. There was pizza spice, cinnamon. Cucumber, cabbage. There was rice. Two packs of rice, one she would open, the other waiting to find its place in the closet. There was a white bag of sugar, but she had forgotten that she had already bought sugar, there were already four kilos of sugar in the cupboard, so the bag of sugar remained on the countertop. She would deal with it later.

In a way, she found it cozy. When she came from the hallway and into the kitchen, she thought it was really cozy. It was like a farmer’s kitchen, she thought. It was such a homey, unpretentious farmer’s kitchen. A rustic Provence kitchen, she thought, and thus it was done. She had named the kitchen counter as the storage for vegetables, mail and both dry and canned goods. The pack of rice had begun to spread its fine, white grains between the other goods. The dishes had also begun to pile up. Plates and cutlery filled the sink and gradually crept farther and farther to the stove on the right. The detergent was standing in the place it had always been, but was no longer visible behind the oil, the ketchup, the sea salt and the thermos. The white washing brush, which used to stand in a white plastic container for storing such things was fleeing beneath the lettuce bowl on its way to the corner. The cloth no longer hung on the faucet, instead it lay inside a pan. There were unwashed glasses in the sink. During daytime, the dishes multiplied exponentially. All of a sudden, the dinner plates were balancing on a structure of deep bowls. The plastic bags had crept from under the cabinet and onto the floor.

The next day there was no longer any space on the countertop and the table had to be used. It was initially newspapers and mail, but it was not long before the food moved from the counter and cupboard and onto the table. The sofa was a warehouse for papers. The chair next to the wall was a rack of clothes. Bags of groceries were standing on the floor by the fridge.

She had no idea where all the crumbs came from. It was as if they had flocked from all the houses in the neighborhood and settled here with her in a wide strip in front of the kitchen sink. The strip was becoming wider and the crumbs had soon taken the floor under the dining table and was heading for the threshold of the living room. Crumbs became mixed with sand, small stones, pine needles and dust that had gathered in large dots. Just looking at the floor made her tired. Just looking at the sink, countertop, table! And she could not clean. Could not bear to vacuum, could not find the broom, did not go out with the garbage. Just looking at the counter made her tired throughout.

It towered up. And finally she sank to her knees. And when she first got on her knees, she could not get up. She rolled over and stood still. That was when she felt the dust come. It came from everywhere. She heard a faint hiss that grew in strength. She first saw it as a grayness, a haze along the floor surface. At first she thought there was something wrong with her sight. Then she realized that there were clouds of tiny particles that approached. She closed her eyes for a moment. Then she felt it. It was like a faint breath. It tickled her skin with lint and dust-balls. It was over her and around her on all sides.

Then she noticed how it tingled her nose, itched her eyes. And she could see a thin layer of gray dust on the skin of the hands and arms. When she blew on it, it whirled up in tiny twinkling lights. She was just lying in the dust looking at it through the brighter fields of sun that came through the kitchen windows. A silent ballet of dust and light. And she was so tranquil. The only thing that existed in the world were these glimpses of dust in the light. And for the first time in weeks, she smiled and surrendered. And dust enveloped her, covered her mess and no one knew she was there until a few days later.

It was beginning to darken. The light had moved from the south window to the western one. Then she heard someone unlock the front door. Stepping in the hallway. She heard someone shout:


And then again: „Hello? I’m home.”

His steps got closer now. He was in the kitchen. They stopped next to her head. He doesn’t see me, she thought, because I am not here, she thought and did not breathe. The entire room held its breath.

„What in the world has happened here,” he said, and she could hear the crackle in his knee as he bowed down. She heard his breath. He was scared. Of course he was scared. She touched his hand. She tried to wave. Then he stopped for a moment. „Oh, then,” he said and moved away a cardboard box. „Is this where you are?” he said. He had the angry voice even though he did not say angry things. He just breathed. He removed some plastic and slightly crumpled tissue paper from her face. Now she looked straight at him. He had that look.

„Dear God,” he said, shaking his head.

„It was the tapenade,” she said, „the one you brought from Paris.”

He helped her up, brushed her, picked the lint and pine needles out of her hair, removed a small sugar ant, caressed her cheek. He had to laugh. To think that it would go so wrong. Only three weeks and two days.

„You’re weird,” he said. Then he kissed her on the forehead. Put his arms around her, hugged her, lifted her up.

„It was not so bad,” she said, almost without breath as he held her so hard. „It was so nice with the afternoon lights,” she said, „how the dust sparkled. You should have seen it.”


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