In Uniform 

As I waited at the airport with crowds of people traveling in countless directions, I was struck by the clarity of mine.

My uniform and supplies arrived at the apartment an hour and a half before class began. I buttoned my jacket, slipped on my shoes, and walked along the waterfront with the remnants of the night’s rain falling lightly on me in a warm mist. The checkers on my pants bled in a single harmonious pattern with those of 13 other students. Relieved I was not posed as a chef wearing a Halloween costume purchased from Ricky’s in the late evening hours, I settled into a space along the stainless steel table that became mine for 16 hours over the course of two days.

Culinary school begins without any actual cooking. Ironically by the end of each class, I was starving! Day one was akin to biology class. We learned about pathogens, the time temperature relationship of reproduction for micro-organisms, and pH. Food ingredients had only a small cameo for lessons about food handling and knife skills. Careful hands cut uneven cubes of carrots and celery with an occasional nick to the skin from the unexpected sharpness of the blade. The methodical movement of the knife was a meditative exercise as I became engrossed in the precision of the task and steady rhythm. I didn’t playback our adventure from the night before at the storefronts in Soho or anticipate the evening that was to come. I didn’t think about laundry or lawn care, that I was low on milk at home, the report that I had started on Friday, or the reservation that I needed to cancel. I simply chopped. Not even in the blazing heat of a Bikram studio during Savasana was my mind this clear.

I locked up my knives and tools and returned to my younger sister’s apartment having left behind weight greater than that which I carried in my bag the first morning. My older sister joined as I shared the details of the day at a table for three. Under other circumstances, we would have gathered as more, and my eyes blurred as the vision of a full table came to mind. But in the grace of my beautiful sisters’ company, next to their weary hearts, we celebrated.

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