There is something magical about kneading a dough. The moment when the flour finally binds with water and yeast, when it all combines into a compact lump of new life, never stops to amaze me. The waiting, if it will raise, makes me feel part of something bigger. It gives me purpose. I become the creator of new life in my very own universe.
I am afraid I don’t have the right flour. I just used something I found in the cupboard, it might have been there for way too long, hidden behind other jars. I am afraid I don’t have enough time. I don’t feel like a creator of new life. It’s difficult to knead the dough, my hand hurts and the fingers are still swollen.
Hugh said I was just being difficult when I complained a few days ago. He would have never hurt me. He was helping me. But it was hard to knead the dough.
I keep on kneading. I imagine it’s Hugh I am kneading. Creator of life, bringer of death, I crush his bones, to dust he returns.
The desert air is warm. That’s good. The dough will rise. Like a phoenix from the ashes. I look around. The furniture is covered by light desert dust. I left the doors open as I invited the wind in. It takes away the sweet smell that filled the trailer. It dries everything to the bone. It’s timeless. If I closed my eyes I could be standing in my mother’s kitchen, before I met Hugh. It smelled the same the first night in the trailer when Hugh brought me over. It was supposed to be for a few months that became years that became the eternity.
I make myself a coffee while I wait for the dough to raise. I take it to the porch — or what I call the porch. An old beaten chair in front of the trailer. I don’t like the taste, the coffee is not good. Hugh bought it. I don’t finish it, instead, I pour it over the ground. If I wanted to be with him, feel his taste, I would sit next to him on the couch. But even now he reeked of alcohol. I don’t drink. Within minutes you can’t tell where the coffee sank into the ground. I keep staring into the distance. I try to remember what I liked about this place at the beginning but I can’t remember. Not that it matters.
I walk back to the kitchen. I trip over the lamp lying on the floor, the mug falls on the ground and shatters. I shrug. A few more shards will not make a difference to my life anymore.
Instead, I go back to the dough. I divide it into eight equal portions. Then I roll each portion carefully into a sausage shape.
I then connect the ends. A bagel is born.
I let them breathe on the kitchen top. I start boiling the water. It takes some time. I add two spoons of sugar. There is not enough sugar in the world to sweeten our lives. We ran out of sugar a long time ago. Maybe there was no sugar to start with.
I start the oven. I always wished for a good oven. All my life. I even got a job in a diner once, just to be closer to a big oven. It didn’t last long. Hugh didn’t think it proper. He wanted to be the man of the family, bringing the money home. He wanted to take care of me. He wanted me to take care of him. So I did, hoping that one day he would do his part too.
A bagel needs exactly 60s of boiling to create the right consistency. Not less, not more. All my boys went for a swim, no it’s time to bake them.
The anticipation is over. Only a few more minutes to go.
“Excuse me? Is anyone home?” A voice interrupts me. Not now, not when I am almost ready. I just smoothen my apron and readjust the smile on my face.
“Yes, officer?” I looked straight into his eyes. We didn’t have guests often.
“I am looking for Hugh Oxtoby, madam.”
“He is here, just come in.” I let him in, pointing towards Hugh’s body. The young policeman stops suddenly when he sees Hugh. He takes the scene in: the broken lamp on the floor, the moved carpet, my mug. And of course, Hugh, covered in blood. Head wounds tend to bleed a lot, or so I was told. The wind dried it so at least now it will not smear. What a relief. I should have cleaned up a bit.
“What happened?” He asks, his hand near his pistol.
“We had an argument. I guess I made a point for once,” I smile to put him at ease. There really is no need to be worried.
“Would you like a bagel? I have just finished them,” I add.