Root of Anxiety

Flash
Clara Schwarz


Photo Credit: Bill Smith/Flickr (CC-by)

Just outside the entrance, Sophia paused briefly to glide the straps of her mask over her ears. She pinched it tight on her nose, nonchalantly picked a basket, and entered the fruit and vegetables area. The basket gained the weight of tomatoes, onions, courgettes, and broccoli, when suddenly, she spotted an unknown root. She approached it curiously and read: Parsnips, Loose, £1.15/kg. Three parsnips now rolled around in her basket, as she continued past cheese and yoghurt, reaching up to grab a pint of full-fat milk. She enjoyed it this way, each gulp coating her throat and filling her tummy with comfort. Sophia was a cooking novice, keen for the comfort of following instructions and the silent repetition of chopping and slicing. Not knowing how to prepare a dish or how to chop a vegetable made her feel insufficient, but her newfound root vegetable would provide some exposure. Surely, the variety of recipes online would spark delicious manipulations of this new root. She could boil it, fry it, grill it or bake it. Mostly, she was eager to roast the parslip, parnils, parnip? The familiar heat flushed her face, as she scrolled her cooking-app trying to find an enticing recipe for the parlip, but the app won’t recognise purnip! Jaw clenched and brows furrowed, Sophia serpentined past eggs and flour, made a beeline for the nut-free muesli, briefly browsed roasted and salted nuts, and indulged in a multi-pack of dark chocolate digestives. Wrists strained and biceps struggling, she dragged herself and the basket along the self-checkout queue. Her brain buzzed and eyes rolled back as she desperately clung to the sound of the root in her ears, trying to reconstruct its name from the echo of her internal voice. The queue inched forwards, as the echo inched further away. Her basket reached its destination, and she initiated the staccato rhythm of the beep. After she moved her acquisitions one after the other into the bagging area, she carefully placed the pale carrots on the scales, and selected “root vegetables” on the screen. She skimmed carefully, past turnips and beetroot, onion and sweet potato, her forehead warm and palms sticky. Her fingers swipe across the screen and finally, calmness washed over her: Parsnips, Loose, £1.15/kg.

pencilClara Schwarz is a researcher, educator, and podcaster based in Germany. They are passionate about social justice, creative writing, and researching queer friendship. Find Clara on Twitter @clararosawelt and their podcast @bullsh_tbinary. Email: claraschwarzz[at]gmail.com

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