Unexpected Coriander

by Sophia Holme

You detested it as a child. A perfectly luscious plate of nachos spoiled by it’s coy little fronds. Carrot soup, unappetizing regardless, rendered noxious by a heaping spoonful of the spice. You’d rather scrub out your mouth with soap, as you did once in front of your mother to prove it was preferable to chewing another bite of that awful, saponaceous herb.

It’s not fooling anyone with the multiple aliases, the powdered nose. Fresh leaves, dried seeds, cilantro, coriander, it’s all the same.

You escaped it in college, or perhaps it lost interest in you. In fact you can’t remember ever seeing it on a menu, worrying about it at a dinner with friends.

Now you’re 27, and it’s everywhere. The coriander has come for you. Flecks of it squirt from your shampoo bottle, it nestles in linen packets in your lingerie drawer. You find it dusting your Sainsbury’s lamb rack, tweeze it from your pre-bagged salad. You will not ingest it, will not sport it, will not let it in.

The coriander becomes more aggressive, more audacious. You open the CD slot on your computer to find it stuffed with wilting leaves. You snip a tampon in half and find it rolled joint-like in the centre. The coriander has a message for you: you will never be safe, not while I’m free. Your toothpaste jets out green. You buy a cilantro plant once a week on a Sunday and burn it on a baking sheet on your living room floor. You shouldn’t bloody well encourage it, you shouldn’t let it know it’s getting under your skin. But the wither and crackle of the leaves gives you some power back.

This goes on for months. You turn 28 and your birthday cake is marbled green.

Then one night, you hear a knock at the door. Coriander is taking things to the next level. You let coriander in and make two cups of peppermint tea which, of course, taste of coriander.

‘You’re a monster,’ you tell Coriander.

‘I am tart, citrusy and refreshing,’ Coriander tells you.

‘What do you want from me?’ you ask. ‘If I finally eat you, will you stop?’

‘I thought I would,’ Coriander admits .’But that no longer feels like enough. I want you to appreciate me. I won’t stop until you actually enjoy coriander. And that goes double for Cilantro.’

You cannot reason with Coriander. Of course you can’t. You’ve always known it was a distasteful herb.

Under the guise of making soup, you coax it into the bath. You plop a 1kg bag of carrots into the steamy water, unwrap a whole pack of bouillon cubes. The coriander slides right in.

You tell it you’re going to the kitchen for a ladle, and it gazes lazily up at you, guileless. You feel a little sorry, but then you remember that it’s ruining your life.

You go to the backyard and fill a bucket with soil. You hide it behind your back as you stand in the bathroom doorway.

‘Got the ladle?’ Coriander asks.

You nod.

‘Let me see.’

Quick as a flash you dump the soil in the water and yank the plug out.

‘No,’ sputters Coriander. It’s leaves waggle, cling to and try to climb the sides of the bath, but it’s too late.

The water is drained and Coriander is rooted in place.

You shower at the gym now. You overwater Coriander from time to time, the threat of root rot keeps it in line. Still, you must listen to it’s wheedling when you’re on the toilet, while you brush your teeth. Occasionally, you believe that it’s sorry and it’s changed, but you know better than that.

Sophia Holme is a writer and bookseller. She runs (badly), reads (bits of novels) and drinks (a lot of coffee). Based in Oxford, England, she originated in the bland and chilly outskirts of Ottawa, Ontario.
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