“Food Containers of My Exes,” by Tim Covell

Sep 20th, 2017 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

I knew it wouldn’t last when Charlie picked out the plastic container for the half dozen cookies she insisted I take home. The box and the lid were different brands. They didn’t quite fit, and she was too impatient and uncaring to find the correct halves in her messy cupboard. She forced the lid, telling me it didn’t matter. We clearly had different priorities. When I called to thank her for the cookies, which she had made from scratch and which were very good, I told her we weren’t going to work out. She didn’t want her container back. I was tempted to throw it out, but decided the two halves might be useful someday, and added them to my collection.

Food containers are too useful to toss, and not personal enough that they prevent me from moving on. Like sheets, towels, or genitals, they’ve been used by someone else, but as long as they’ve been washed it’s okay.  However, they still have the memories. The mug with the picture of Alex and me had to go, but her sandwich container, the only green one I have, always reminds me of our picnic at the beach and her terrible driving.

Randy re-used glass bottles as food containers. “No plastics,” she’d say, “I like it authentic.” Unfortunately, Randy’s idea of authentic included rarely washing her hair. Something to do with chemicals leaching into the shampoo from plastic bottles. We argued about whether tomato sauce stains in plastic containers proved the plastic was porous. To keep her happy, I used glass bottles for leftover spaghetti sauce. I kept doing that out of habit after we broke up, until I dropped one and it shattered. Then I went back to plastic. You can clean the stains with lemon juice or baking soda.

Denise bought me a container for a birthday gift. It was designed for salads, and came with a fork and a mini container for dressing, both tucked into the lid. Denise was always finding cool things. She was brilliant and gorgeous, and when I lost the top for the dressing cup, two months after she moved out, I was sad for a while. Then I realized that loss is part of life, and that nothing could take away my happy memories of earlier times, before I lost the lid. I’ve come to terms with it now. Sometimes I use the container without the dressing cup, and the empty spot in the lid is bittersweet reminder.

Gerry used only disposable containers.  I was skeptical, but we lasted three years, and the containers she left behind are still going strong. So is the tin Christmas cake container Susan gave me. It was very retro, and a charming surprise from someone I expected to be a traditional Rubbermaid user, like me. That was a fun couple of weeks.

It’s not that I never give containers back. If we are living together, when things end, I always remind them to take their food containers, or offer to pack them up. They usually don’t want them, or don’t care. That tells me they didn’t have a lot invested in the relationship. They always want to keep their plates and bowls though. I don’t have as many plates or bowls as I’d like to have, but some food storage containers can double as a plate or bowl.

If we’re dating, and she gives me some treats or leftovers in a container, I always wash and return it as soon as possible, ideally with something in it. I have a stash of chocolates for that purpose. I’ve often thought that putting a ring in a sandwich container I’m returning would be a clever way to propose. Ladies like something that makes the occasion memorable.

I loan out my containers as freely as others loan theirs to me, or perhaps more so. But I only loan out containers that I purchased myself. Giving an exes’ container to a new friend is classless, as is explaining why a particular container is not appropriate. Perhaps she may think me a little odd as I select a container slightly too large for the leftovers, when a more appropriate one is visible, but I’d rather have her think me odd than say something so crude as “No, I can’t use that one for you – it used to be Helen’s.”

Sometimes I don’t get my container back, especially after a first or second date. There’s no second or third date then, and I accept that to this person I will never mean anything more than a useful size good quality food storage container.  And once, just once…  When Alice moved out, she asked to take one of my containers “because it reminds me of you.” That night I cried, and even now I still hope we might run into each other, in the household items aisle of the grocery store, both getting more food storage containers, and realize that it was meant to be.

Defenestration-Tim CovellTim Covell lives by the sea, is very old but has often been called immature, and is celebrating thirty years of being a university student. He writes humor, romance (which is often funny), and computer software tip sheets (rarely funny). More at www.covell.ca

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