Wooden chopping boards are full of stories.
Today I'm cutting tomatoes into eighths and feeding the pieces to my enamelled stock pot with olive oil, garlic and onions. It happens every year when the over-ripe tomatoes are getting sold as 'sauce toms'. (I always delude myself into thinking I'm making sauce for the rest of the year, when in reality, it is so yummy it lasts, oh, two weeks, at best. Curries, pizza, pasta and cheese on toast. Gone.)
I'm using my favourite, sharpest knife. I'm cutting tomatoes on my favourite board - sheoak, silky-grained and gorgeous. I bought it from the wood carver's exhibition. Before I acquired this one, I had a solid block of jarrah, bevelled edges, sanded and oiled. This is where the story really begins. Stay with me here. Before the jarrah chopping board, when my daughter was a baby, I used a piece of pine that had once served as a base for a sculpture of my naked self in an exhibition ... but that is another tale.
I was in the galley kitchen of a rented weatherboard house by the beach; the kind that inland farmers bought for a song in the sixties for their summer holidays and are now selling for a million bucks. I was chopping onions for a feast with my lover, with no idea that I would conceive a child within the next few weeks.
The argument came out of nowhere.
"Caught up with someone who's just been to Tibet and India ..." (he listed recounted Eastern spiritual connections blah blah) " ... and they said they'd like that bit of jarrah I got, for a chopping board. They said how much they liked the jarrah. I told them they could have it."
Me, chopping with my favourite, sharpest knife. "Who?"
Brain goes POP.
"Her? You are giving all your beautiful wood to her?"
It was for good reason, in that galley kitchen, in the little weatherboard house, chopping onions on a crappy piece of pine, that my head and my heart exploded. (Why don't you love me enough?) I got quite hysterical. I started shouting. Perhaps I was even shrill, dammit. The teenage surfies who were sharing the house with us stopped their chatter in the living room. I heard their quietening beneath my quickening.
To his credit, he took the knife from me and dragged me into the bedroom. I kept shouting. He bit me.
(He bit me.) He bit me.
The next morning I woke up with him holding me. I looked at him and he laughed. My eyes were quite destroyed from crying all night and I had a perfect crescent of teeth marks around each side of my nose.
We survived that; but not the tsunami of family deaths, the lack of emotional intelligence, the bikies or my warrior response to my curtailed freedom.
Weeks after the breakup, he smashed the drivers' side window into my face with his helmet as I was trying to back out of the drive.
The next day, I opened the door to him and he handed me a jarrah chopping board, bevelled edges, sanded and oiled. No apology. Just a chopping board.
It's funny. I never thought about how long he'd kept that piece of jarrah, or that he'd even kept it at all, until today whilst chopping tomatoes. I think it's lying out in the garden somewhere now.