She had picked the darkest plátanos. That’s how you have to pick them if you’re cooking maduros. Don’t get the green ones; those are savory, but they’re hard, tough to peel, and take longer to cook. They’re delicious too, but they do take time. Maduros are a quick fix, plus sometimes you just want something sweet.
By the time Bea had peeled them, the frying oil was hot. Dani was sitting at the table, by the window with the fire escape, staring off, all bony and pale in his wife-beater, looking like a broke-ass Marc Anthony.
She deposited the peels in the trash. Her hands, blackened and sticky from the plátano residue. Something you have to know about peeling plátanos is that they leave a dark film on your hands that can be a pain in the ass to get off--nothing fatal, but still it’s like dirt under your nails.
“You need help?” he asked her.
He knew she hated when oil popped. She would wince at it, like when you’re watching a movie and it feels like a punch comes flying at you. No, she didn’t need help.
When they met at the party, months before they moved into his apartment in Queens, mostly out of necessity, she asked him how he knew she spoke Spanish.
“You got cheekbones that could peel a plátano” he told her. She laughed at that.
She leaves the water running and moves over to the frying pan. Even with a fork, she fumbles placing the pieces in the pan, drops of water from her hand makes the oil crackle. What’s that saying, don’t get burned twice by the same frying oil?
Fuck him, she thought.
“You sure you don’t need help?”
“Bea, you need help with that?” He never uses her name.
What about the plátanos did she need help with? Nothing.
She keeps turning the pieces. Sometimes, they look real ripe on the outside, but on the inside they just aren’t ready--they’re tough and starchy. If you’ve never had them, I don’t know what to tell you. But these are going to take longer than usual.
They start browning on the outside, but they’re not ready, not in the center. She lowers the heat, hoping to save them.
“Bea, you need help?” he asks her, sitting bony and pale, like a ghost in a wife-beater. Fuck you, she thought. Noise in her head. The oil’s dancing and the fire’s going.
She wants to--would rather be by the flame and the spitting pan. They’re almost burned now and still a little starchy, no amount of heat will bring the desired results to bear. The oil’s smoky like little kitchen clouds. But she’s determined that some bites will be sweet.