I noticed the turquoise streak in her hair first, a streak of blue falling through blond hair like inverted lightning. She wore a choker made out of hemp. Silver rings cluttered her fingers—one, two, three, four…I stopped counting.
“Hey,” she said. “I hear we’ll be working together.”
Oh boy. I could read the rebel in her stance—feet spread apart, thumbs hitched in the pockets of her jeans.
But…first impressions could be deceiving, right?
We had both been hired to work in the same commercial kitchen, a tiny kitchen squeezed into a mountain lodge that had been built in the early 1900s. In this kitchen we would spend every day practically stacked on top of each other. There was no place to hide. Attempted friendship seemed like the best course of action. I bit my lip and began a mission into uncharted territory.
“Did you see the new flavor of ice cream in the freezer?” This was my idea of an icebreaker question. Quirky, I know, but not so surprising from a girl who follows ice cream flavors on Instagram. Bluebell. Ben & Jerry’s. Talenti. Breyers. Magnum. Häagen-Dazs. Klondike. They’re all there, like old friends.
My co-worker shrugged. “I hate ice cream.”
“Not even Salted Caramel Crunch?” I asked, weakly.
“Actually, I hate all desserts. Sugar makes me feel like throwing up.”
I changed tactics.
“Have you eaten breakfast yet? I could make you—”
“No, thanks. I don’t do breakfast. It’s gross.”
I was the breakfast chef. I loved breakfast. I loved its possibilities, its hearty outlook on life. What other time of day could you eat a meal of syrup-laced waffles with whipped cream and strawberries and call it energy for the day? What better way to boost morale than with fried eggs and homemade bacon? Skipping breakfast seemed like a missed opportunity. It was like disqualifying the day from the competition of Best Day Ever.
Evidently, the co-worker standing next to me had widely different ideas. I took a deep breath and tried to ignore the soundings of a very long summer ahead.
As the week progressed, I learned new things about my co-worker. She hated peanut butter with a passion—and told me so. I felt that she was slandering a dear friend. She hated the smell of fresh-baked granola. I wanted it bottled as an air freshener. She walked into rooms with confidence and guided conversations with easy poise. I slipped into rooms through backdoors and stumbled through conversations like a lumberjack trying to perform a ballet routine. She thought quickly and spoke her thoughts. I thought my thoughts slowly and said nothing.
The week blended into another. I learned new things about my co-worker. She hated to bake. I loved to bake. Her room was messy. Mine could have been the posterchild of Marie Kondo’s philosophy of tidying up. She stayed up late. I went to bed at 9:30.
The weeks became months. We worked together every day. We never argued over kitchen tasks. We were too different for that. I made bread. She chopped vegetables. I helped make breakfast. She helped make dinner.
As our weekly ritual, we stood next to each other on Saturdays, chopping apples. She snitched bits of apple to eat while I laughed, scolding. Our knife blades rocked in rhythm, dicing the white meat of apples with sharp, steady motions while the smell of baking bread filled the kitchen. Sometimes we talked, and sometimes we worked in easy silence. Sometimes we argued. But even arguing with this girl seemed more fun than commenting on ice cream flavors with an Instagram groupie. She and I went at it, as C.S. Lewis puts it, “with hammer and tongs…often more like mutually respectful enemies than friends.”
Then one day, at the summer’s end, I stood in line at the airport. She was there to help me check my bags. I focused on the streak of turquoise in her hair. I had forgotten about it. First impressions seemed like a lifetime ago. Now I wished the summer could have been longer.
We said goodbye. She was heading West; I was heading East. We hugged each other like two friends who didn’t want to let go.
As I headed toward the security check, I remembered that neither of us liked hugs. That was one thing we had actually agreed on.