The onion’s thick outer layer resisted the sharp tip of her French knife but finally yielded all at once as she cleaved the fragrant yellow sphere in half with a satisfying thwap! She worked quickly now, already feeling the burn coming in her eyes and nostrils. Placing the flat side of one section against the board, she sliced the bulb into thin crescents, more or less following its longitudinal lines, but leaving the whole business attached at the top. Finished, she turned it 45 degrees and expertly chopped across the sliced sections before repeating this little bit of culinary handiwork on the other half. Pushing the perfectly symmetrical dice into a pile, she discarded the onion tops, with unruly minuscule tendril-like roots still clinging to them. Bottoms, more correctly, she observed to herself as she pitched them: that’s the ass end of an onion—a vegetable with a hairy ass.
Over in the kitchen windowsill a radio announcer scrolled through the list of weekend arts events, but she couldn’t hear much of it over the clamor inside her head (it had been weeks now—would the nightmare never end?), and anyway, none of that mattered to her anymore. She considered the onion, for a moment, as the perfect metaphor for all the epiphanies in these last weeks, one coming so quickly on the heels of another: peeling back the layers, as the folk wisdom went. The first one had struck her like a blow to the head with a blunt object, followed by others coming in waves, leaving her mainly numb; now she had come to expect them, developed a kind of quiet anguish about this unwelcome new chapter in her life.
On the stove behind her the rice she’d set over fire gurgled under its lid and spewed a little; she turned and looked just in time to catch a dribble of frothy white starch slowly marching down the side of the pan before it settled into a puddle on the stove top. She rinsed her hands at the sink, toweled them dry, and set a large skillet over the burner next to the rice. After it had warmed a little she lifted it and swirled around the oil to coat the bottom uniformly. She held the cutting board over it and emptied the onion dice into the heat, enjoying the sizzle but stepping back a bit to avoid the hot oil that danced around the bits. Was there a better, more savory smell than onion cooking in fat? It hardly seemed fair, really, to compare a thing so divine with this train wreck. Maybe dominoes made a more fitting metaphor. Or, here was a thought: maybe time, and a little heat, would take care of the train wreck—transfigure it into something better—as it had the onion in the pan. This notion got her wheels turning; she would continue to meditate on it in fits and starts all day long and late into the night.