The automatic doors parted, and the first thing he did was head for the produce section. Between the Roma tomatoes and ginger there wasn’t a bulb to be found. There were two cloves on the kitchen counter at home, but the recipe called for six.
He pictured the people who’d scooped them up by the armful waking in the middle of the night to the sound of fingers tapping on glass, then opening the windows of their fourth-floor apartments for a loved one they hadn’t seen for days, inviting them to come inside, telling them how worried they’d been, telling them they looked ill.
He gathered the other ingredients and turned down the aisle with herbs and spices. There were plenty of small glass containers of the powdered stuff between the fennel and ginger.
He was in the kitchen with a glass of cabernet sauvignon before nightfall. He took both cloves from their bowl on the counter and set them on a cutting board, made a slit in the first one with a paring knife, its skin -- bruised purple and white as newly fallen snow -- sticking to the pad of his thumb as he peeled it off.
He minced both cloves, tipped the cutting board over the pot, scraped it clean with the paring knife, added two pints of cherry tomatoes. He stirred everything between sips from his wineglass.
Through the window over the kitchen sink he noticed a young man sitting on the corner, his neck exposed, his legs stretched before him in the street.
The next time he looked out, the young man was lying on the grass next to the curb. He wondered if the kid had taken too much of something. Either way, the sun was down. Curfew was now in effect.
The third time he looked out the kid was sitting up again. Across the street a slow-moving figure resolved itself into a young woman relying on a wooden cane, a young woman who hadn’t considered how she would look to something peeling and separating itself from the shadows. She sat down next to the kid on the corner instead of waiting for her companion to get up.
At that moment the oil crackled, calling him to stir the bursting tomatoes, to lower the heat. He added two teaspoons of agave syrup to the pot, then obliged it. The tomatoes spilled their seeds and juices.
The final time he looked out the window he watched the pair rising, first white and navy, then white and crimson. Stripes on a barber pole. They headed towards the park, while he poured himself the rest of the wine and gave the pot another stir.
A block and a half away, the supermarket -- closed since sundown -- was out of garlic.
Touer Haines lives with his wife in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.