I didn’t need that much garlic. After all… how much garlic, exactly, could I put into the chicken without overdoing it?
But something made me leave the white, rounded head on the counter after cracking off a few bulbs, rather than putting it back in the fridge. Maybe I’d need more.
Of the three small cloves sitting there on the counter, it was naturally the plumpest that came to my hand first. It looked… so…Perfect. Delicious. Appealing.
I picked it up and almost subconsciously savored the subtle satisfaction that slid through me. There was a certain pleasure in holding the small, papery package. Bulging its rounded figure in the center, curving neatly to tapered ends. It felt so full. So complete, despite its smallness. So perfect.
The pleasure almost peaked with anticipation before I even broke the skin. Holding it carefully in my left hand, my right thumbnail slid under the skin of the delicate tail, deftly snapped it back, and- pop! It was open.
The perfection of that small action rippled through me in a wonder that will never cease. All you have to do is snap it and- perfect! It pops open magically, revealing the splendor of soft creamy flesh hidden within. The glossy meat peeped out, exciting me to reveal it all the way. Grasping the torn peel, I pulled sharply but carefully. A neat strip peeled away. Then another, then another, and then- that moment of magic when the whole wraparound garment slipped away with a beautiful feathery crack. And there, in all its glory, sat my clove of garlic. Incredibly, enticingly plump, a healthy shine that pulled my eyes like magnets, drawing them up to that artistically perfect slender end. Here I am, it seemed to say. You unsheathed me, and now I sit in all my shining glory. You can stand and stare forever. And I could. But it was not the glory of the thing itself that held me now. It was the snap! of a moment ago, making my fingers reach out for another clove, needing, wanting, to open it. I broke off the most enticingly plump clove and held it in my hand. The feathery heaviness bulged appealingly, hinting at luscious treasure within. Desire led my fingers to firmly grasp the tail, slide my nail in, a sharp twist, and- crack! And puuuulll… and there we go, the skin slid down smoothly to once again reveal the shine hidden within.
No, a package.
Little Garlic, how did you come to be so beautifully protected?
The only word that filled my mind was… perfect. The layers of paper, molded to its graceful curves. The outer shell, harder and firmer protection. And… and most of all, most of all, made perfect for me.
Wrapped perfectly for me, so that all I’d have to do is slide my thumbnail into that giftwrap, break the skin, twist, and the treasure was revealed.
Why do You wrap Your gifts for me, this way? Why?
I was tired, and not inclined to think of answers. But what filled my mind, as I reached for another clove-
My little sister, peeling a clove for the first time. Look Mommy, she says in wonder, it’s a package, perfectly wrapped, and it pops out perfectly when I open it!
And all that fills my mind, as I crack off cloves, and hold, and feel, and twist, and snap, and peel-
You wrap each one so carefully. So perfectly, so perfectly. The perfection is almost unbearable in its wonder. It shouts out to me, in a peaceful, flowing sort of way, that fills me up and keeps on flowing and will not stop. And I shout back, in a silent, peaceful, continuous way, because I cannot not-
Why, Tatty, why?
And I keep on breaking off cloves, even while knowing that I have way more garlic then I could possibly need. My hand keeps reaching, all by itself, unable to resist the lure of the snap and twist and strip and…
So easy. Actually, I find that if you slice off the other end of the clove first, it pops open with even more magical ease. This has its own joy. But after reveling in that pleasure once or twice, I return to slitting and cracking with my thumb. The knife is simply… artificial. If man had no knife, he would still be able to pop open the beautiful garlic-gift. I want to experience (it) in its most basic, God-given form; to touch the gift with my fingers, as it was meant to be touched.
For then I touch the gift, not of the bounty within, but of the Wrapper. I can almost see the formless smile, shining down with fatherly pleasure at the child ripping joyously through the wrapping paper.
Why, Tatty, why?
But even as my mind is wondering, I am reaching, and holding plumpness in my palm, and sliding my nail- no artificial implement- and bursting out the bounty, fresh and lovely-
And in that movement, I feel a caress- A soft, airy blanket, thrown over me, that you can barely see, but you can feel, and know; a coverlet of care, gently spread over me, warming my heart without my mind needing to fully understand.
Smiling inside warmed by the formless smile spreading over me as I twist and pop. Not for the gift, but for the gift of the giftwrap.
I don’t see Tatty’s face, and I don’t even look up, and I don’t even say anything in return.
But I keep on peeling garlic, clove after clove, until there is no more left to peel.
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