by Bruce Meyer
TEVA SAYS it tastes like soap.
I beg to differ. I love the taste.
It is one of the key ingredients in Thai, Mexican, and Indian cuisine. People all over the world grow it and love it.
And how does she know what soap tastes like? Was her childhood that bad? Whenever I got punished for something I’d get a whack across my bum with a hairbrush or sent to my room. Maybe she said something bad.
And what’s guacamole without cilantro? Teva says it doesn’t need it. The word avocado comes for the Aztec word for balls. Guacamole from the ancient Mexican euphemism ball juice. I tried to tell Teva this. She said I have a foul mind, a deviant streak, and not everything is about sex. Freud would disagree with her. Guac is about the avocados. I beg to differ.
Try some, I said, just a little. You’ll get used to it. She said, I’m not falling for that again.
What I understand is that there are two types of people in this world: those who like coriander, cilantro, whatever you want to call it—and never confuse it with Italian parsley which doesn’t really have a taste—and those who don’t. Those who don’t can’t stand being around it. Teva’s not allergic to it even though she says it makes her come out in welts. Oh, c’mon. Really? Welts?
We shouldn’t have moved in together. Cilantro is an irreconcilable difference.
She won’t speak to me when we go shopping if I put a bunch to my nose and sniff it. That’s the way to tell if you’re getting a good batch, a real bundle that has known sunlight and fresh air and maybe an unmerciful Mexican sun that made it deep green because the aroma is so full.
I love to pick up a bundle, shake the water off from the automatic crisper spray they use in grocery stores to keep things fresh, the kind of spray that could ruin an antique wristwatch like the one Teva wears because it was her grandmother’s and for a hundred years no one got wet, and just sniff and inhale.
Teva won’t come near me. I don’t drive. She wouldn’t even let me in the car. I had to walk home holding my bouquet of cilantro.
I felt like a sad clown. It was raining.
I snuck it into the apartment when she wasn’t looking.
The super on the main floor, a guy I used to have a beer with regularly before Teva moved in and banned beer on our premises because her mother once fell down a flight of stairs after a Bud Light, agreed to take in my bundle and look after it until Teva was out.
I was dying to tear up some leaves and put them on top of a shrimp pad thai I was making for dinner. I served the pad thai and she said, Ooo, that looks good, but when I put my plate on the table and topped it with cilantro all hell broke loose.
Teva is good looking but I think I rushed things with her. It’s like a basketball or hockey franchise signing free agents on the first day when the best players are available. You sign someone because you don’t want the other teams to get them. That’s how Teva moved in.
I didn’t think it through.
I can’t go out and trade her for someone else. That only happens in sports.
I can’t say, Hey, how about Rachel for Teva and future considerations?
And if Rachel is your girlfriend, you’d say no, first of all, then you’d say, Man, are you kidding me? No way. Rachel is the real thing.
The hypothetical Rachel, I am certain, loves cilantro. She’d say, make me more of whatever the cilantro thing is. I want more. Please, top it up, stalks and all.
Cilantro has nothing to do with sex, guacamole notwithstanding.
It shouldn’t have anything to do with relationships. Yet The first thing a person should ask on a first date is Do you or don’t you like cilantro?
There’s no equivocation on the matter. You can’t equivocate over an herb.
But I have to warn the cilantro aficionados that you just can’t sneak a leaf anytime you want.
It hangs around on your breath.
You can’t get the same taste from Italian parsley. Italian parsley looks like tiny maple or sycamore leaves and fools those who are not initiated in the mysteries of cilantro, but there’s no taste to it.
It doesn’t offend in the same way the Ace of Clubs-shaped leaves do.
I tried to hide my bundle in a jar of water in the lower drawer of my desk.
I figured I sneak a fix and Teva wouldn’t know it.
In the middle of the night she’s ramming my bunch of cilantro into my mouth.
Was I snoring? I ask as I try not to choke on leaves that fell off.
Then she starts tossing my drawers and throwing my clothes out the window and yelling, You don’t love me!
It was my apartment. I’d paid first and last month on it, and she told me to get out and take my damned cilantro with me.
There’s an all-night Thai restaurant around the corner from our place. They know me there and they never ask my name, and a beautiful young girl with eyes like eclipsed suns sprinkles handfuls of cilantro on my pad thai, my mango salad, the yellow curry, and when I think she’s about to stop, she smiles and tells me there is always more and I fall in love with the green tips of her long delicate fingers.
Bruce Meyer is author of books of poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and literary non-fiction. His most recent collections of short stories are Down in the Ground (Guernica Editions, 2020), and The Hours: Stories from a Pandemic (AOS, 2021). He lives in Barrie, Ontario.