by Keena Hays
I remember standing, eyes wide, on the opposite side of the counter. My brothers and I, too short to lift more than our noses over the stove’s edge, watched mesmerized as her spoon spun around the full jar of thick, raw honey. The hand-carved wood emerged from the jar and a cascade of gold slid into the pot like an avalanche. We all watched, swallowing, as she scraped the sweetness off the spoon and onto the side of the pot. The honey trickled to the center as it warmed, joining the now translucent gold below.
“A teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne,” my grandmother said as she waved one finger at us, winked, and threw in an extra pinch of cayenne. The colors swirled in the white ceramic pot like liquid fire-gold, the honey infused with traces of bright red and warm brown. We watched over the pot carefully and she asked me, “What do you think? Is it ready?”
I remembered the lesson from the summer before. I dipped the spoon into the pot and ran my pinky along the back of it. It was ready when the line stayed on the back of the spoon. The honey rushed over the memory of my finger and coated the spoon. I shook my head “no.” My grandmother smiled and squeezed my honey-free hand as I sucked the stickiness from my finger.
Her hand, the same but more wrinkled now, squeezes mine again. My own hand is showing signs of age too, particularly a large, protruding vein on the back of my right in the distinct shape of the letter “H.” It seems as though her hand is always holding mine now. Her furrowed brows give away her confusion as we watch my television. She has no idea who I am, but she finds comfort in me and I find comfort in that. She is sitting in a green, corduroy rocking chair with torn corners, the only remnant from her home we could fit into my loft when she came to live with me. A scarf is wrapped tightly around her head, like every day. She is ashamed of her baldness and even more so of the scar, which trickles just above her left ear. Today’s scarf is a burnt orange with yellow flowers and brown leaves. The colors give me an idea.
“What do you say I go make us some hot honey and biscuits?”
She lifts her head and inhales deeply, as if recognizing a long-forgotten smell. A delicate smile coats her lips and her face looks familiar to me for the first time in months.
I pat her knee and walk to the kitchen.
I grab a jar of honey from the cupboard. It is not raw and was not brought to my door by the farmer himself, but it will do. My biscuits explode from a cardboard tube, no time for kneading and chilling a day in advance. I do not mortar and pestle fresh roasted cayenne chilis, nor do I grate fresh cinnamon from the stick. But I do not need to do any of these things to remember them being done, to remember watching my grandmother doing them.
I hear the floor and my grandmother’s tottering knees creaking as she approaches the doorway to the kitchen. I turn to her, ready to hear a request for water, for help getting to the bathroom, for a desire for a nap, but instead she waves a single finger, winks, and says, “Just a pinch of cayenne.”
I let out a mixture of a gasp and a laugh as I grab an additional pinch of the bright red powder and drop it into the pot. It’s the hot honey that brings her back.
Published October 21st, 2018
Keena Hays is a student of history and anthropology at University of New Mexico and an emerging young writer. Follow her on Facebook @KHauthor and Twitter @hauthor_k.
Kim Marra is a native New Yorker. After graduating from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Painting, Kim spent three years living the New York City grind before permanently relocating to Los Angeles. She has exhibited in many venues throughout New York and California, and has been featured in several publications including Paint Pulse Magazine and Petrichor Review. Kim’s bold, geometric oil paintings “collage” elements from her present surroundings and childhood homes, finding visual overlap in the memories and feelings these places recall for her. Kim is a working artist, curator, and textile designer happily calling Los Angeles her home.