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The Big Explosion

A Fragment From Hell

The headache had been gnawing at him since early in the morning. His shoulders hurt. His brain had trouble getting into first gear. Work was hell. The sun was too bright, the air too warm, his boss too chirpy.

He stepped off the bus, slouched up the stairs and let himself in.

When he opened the kitchen door he saw that his wife had exploded.


She was everywhere. Her coat was on the kitchen chair, her shopping bag on the kitchen table. The kitchen sink was filled with filthy saucepans, one of which he remembered seeing there the previous evening.

Spaghetti noodles floated around in the dirty water that had accumulated inside the bigger saucepan. The smaller one contained what looked like burned milk. Every surface in the kitchen seemed covered with food, dirty dishes and used kitchen utensils.

He had been looking forward to the remains of last Sunday's self-made Tiramisu dessert. When he opened the fridge, it was gone. There were some questionable Turkish delights on the kitchen table, though: pickled paprika and eggplant and dressed goat cheese. He decided to make do with what was there, but it was not the same. He had looked forward to something sweet all afternoon.

He heard a groan from the bedroom and immediately he knew. One of those days, again. A side-splitting headache and stomachache, he could hear it from two rooms away. Quietly, he approached the bedroom and carefully opened the door. He sat down next to his wife, who barely managed opened her swollen eyes to comment:

"Oh, you're here already." It was past 8 p.m.

He gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead and left the bedroom. He did the dishes, cleaned the counters, made some tea and sat down at the cleared kitchen table.

With a sigh, he pulled a sheaf of papers from his suitcase. It was an evaluation questionnaire from his employer. It contained such profound and mysterious queries as "What do you want to achieve within the next year(s)?" and wondrous passages where he was supposed to rate his own performance and abilities. His fogged-up mind found a hidden insult in every question. His employer was offering him a knife to butcher himself with and he obliged, with gusto.

He wrote down all the things he would never dare tell his supervisor directly. The tone of his answers grew more sarcastic and dangerous with every question. He wrote himself into a hot, frustrated rage.

The cover page had his name at the top, and below, "filled out by". He just barely resisted scribbling "My mom" in a nice grade-school handwriting. One question wanted to know "What do you like least about your job." After some hesitation, he added "Questionnaires" to the extensive list he had scrawled in earlier.

His shoulders still hurt. He undressed, brushed his teeth and slouched into the bedroom. One of those days, again.

The next morning, he would ask his supervisor for another copy of the questionnaire. He would tell him that he had misplaced the previous one.

Tiramisu (italian for "pull me up") is a dessert made with ladyfingers, mascarpone (cream cheese), chocolate, Amaretto liquor and espresso. [ back to text ]

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