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Can’t throw away; reluctant to throw away

Chicken with pickled plum and shiso leaves

1.
「今天你媽媽來了,漬梅子是她拿來的。」
「嗯。」
「媽媽造的漬梅子真的很好吃呢。改天要跟她學下來,往後就讓我給你造了。」
「嗯。」
由起子夾了一口梅子紫蘇拌雞肉,酸酸咸咸的梅子肉踫到她嘴中的口瘡,痛得她低喊了一下,趕緊含一口冰水,麻痺突如其來的傷痛。她注視著陽太,他頭也不抬,默默地嘴嚼著口裡的白飯,二十一下、二十二下、二十三下⋯⋯陽太又把白飯嚼太久了,他有注意到自己這小習慣嗎?由起子擦掉右眼滲出的眼淚。遇到痛楚時,她的右眼常比左眼先滴淚。
「陽太⋯⋯」
「嗯?!」陽太驀地抬起頭,瞪著圓眼。突然被喊名字,他的靈魂彷彿自起伏的思潮給沖回岸上去。
「⋯⋯」由起子凝看著陽太蠕動著的嘴巴,欲言又止。舉起味噌湯的碗,呷了一口:「你有看新聞嗎?又發生老人車禍了呢。」
「嗯,是呢。」陽太把飯吞下,把一點雞肉送進嘴去。
「好吃嗎?」
「嗯。」

2.
由起子看著陽太把盤子一隻隻的疊起來,在上面又疊上一隻隻的碗,筷子及湯匙也擱上去,轉身小心翼翼放進洗碗盤裡。「我還有點工作。」說著便步回房間去。由起子的眼睛離不開他的背影,以及他口袋裡透出的手機亮光。

陽太關上了房門,由起子為自己倒了杯茶,靠在沙發上,開啟了電視機。綜藝節目、旅遊節目、飲食節目、飲食節目、新聞節目、綜藝節目⋯⋯風景與主持人的表情在她眼前掠過又回來,沒有任何一張臉在她眼前停留。她隱隱約約地聽到陽太低沉的話音及笑聲。她把電視音量調大聲一點,再調大聲一點,值到聽不到陽太的聲音。

3.
由起子從夢中醒來時已是凌晨三時了,室內漆黑一片,天花板上偶爾滑過一團團光暈,是夜來人們驅著車忽忙留下的蹤影。甚麼時候電視機給關上了?甚麼時候自己身上蓋了一條毯子?甚麼時候陽太開始不會喚醒在沙發上沉睡去的她,催她上床睡覺?她想回到房間去,便拉開毯子坐起來,一團光暈又在天花板滑過,她再躺下來,還是再躺一會吧。

4.
由起子再從沙發上爬起來時已近早上八時。其實她早就醒來了,卻一直合著眼睛聽著陽太悉悉簌簌地梳洗,聽著他烤士多、倒牛奶,聽著他出門,然後她才緩緩地爬起來,深深地抽了口氣。在沙發睡了一整夜,使她感到腰部有點疼痛。

由起子走到廚房,為自己倒了杯水,洗碗盆內還泡著昨夜晚餐用過的餐具,洗理台上擱著半鍋味噌湯,砧板上留下了一小堆紫蘇葉。那是她昨晚造梅子紫蘇拌雞肉時多切了的,全拌進去了味道太重,雖才剩下一點點,但扔掉可惜,她便先讓它留在砧柀上打算飯後再處理。一夜下來,紫蘇葉已經乾了,色澤變了,香氣也散了,由起子把它拈起,用保鮮膜包起。收進冰箱時,連她自己也感到不解,為甚麼連這麼一點點變質的紫蘇葉,她都捨不得扔掉。

*
梅子紫蘇拌雞肉
材料:
雞胸肉 200 克、青瓜一條、青紫蘇葉 6 片、梅子 1 顆、芝麻(隨意)
調味料:
鹽 1 小匙

做法:
1. 把鹽加進水進,煮開後把雞胸肉放進煮熟;
2. 雞肉放涼後撕成細碎;
3. 青瓜切成幼條;
4. 除去梅子的核,把肉搗成茸;
5. 紫蘇葉切碎;
6. 所有材料及芝麻拌在一起。完成。

1.
“Your mum dropped by today and brought these pickled plum.”
“Alright.”
“The pickled plum she made is always so tasty. I should ask her for the recipe and make some for you.”
“Alright.”
Yukiko put into her mouth a piece of chicken, which was prepared with shiso and plum. The sourness of the plum flesh has irritated her canker sore, prompting her to quickly pour some ice cold water into her mouth to benumb the sudden pain. She looked up and stared at Hatuta, but he just continued munching the rice quietly without even lifting his head. 21,22… He had chewed 23 times in total; was he ever aware of his little habit of chewing for too long? Yukiko wiped her right eye, where her tears of pain usually came out.
“Hatuta.”
“Yes?” Hearing his name all of a sudden interrupted Hatuta’s streams of thought. He looked up with wide opened eyes.
From the curve of his mouth, Yukiko could tell there was something Hatuta wanted to say but didn’t say. She lifted the bowl to her mouth, had a sip of the miso soup and continued, “Have you seen the news? Another elderly got hurt in a car accident.”
“Right.” He continued eating his rice and chicken.
“Does it taste good?”
“Yes.”

2.
Yukiko was looking at how Hatuta stacked the dishes one by one, then followed by the bowls on top of the dishes, then the chopsticks and spoons on the very top before carefully putting everything into the dishwasher. “I still have some work to finish off.” He turned away to his room while he spoke. Yukiko couldn’t take her glance off him, as well as the light emitted from the phone in his pocket.

Seeing Hatuta closed the door, Yukiko poured herself a cup of tea and lied on the couch. She turned on the television and randomly switched through basically all the channels without really watching any of the shows. All the faces or sceneries on the screen are just flashes that didn’t leave any mark on her mind. The talking and laughing of Hatuta could be faintly heard from behind the door, she needed to tune the TV louder and louder, until it was loud enough to cover up Hatuta’s voice.

3.
It was already 3 a.m. when she woke up from dreams. Cars rushed by downstairs and casted light beams on the ceiling of this room in complete darkness. She didn’t remember herself switching off the television or covering herself with a blanket. Since when has Hatuta stopped asking her to go back to the room when she falls asleep on the couch? She lifted up the blanket, thinking about going back to the room. Another beam of light lightened the ceiling, then she lied down again.

4.
Yukiko stayed in the coach until 8 in the morning. Although she has woken up, she simply kept her eyes closed and listened as Hatuta brushed his teeth and prepared himself some toasts and milk. Finally, she heard him leaving home, then she slowly got out of the coach, took a deep breath to soothe the ache from sleeping on the couch all night.

Yukiko went to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of water. The utensils they used last night were still lying in the sink, whereas half a pot of miso soup was still on the worktop. On the chopping board was some chopped shiso leaves, which was overly prepared last night when making the chicken with plum and shiso leaves. Too much of that would ruin the taste of the dish, but then again, they were too fresh to be thrown away. She intended to store up the leaves after dinner but ended up letting them in open air for the whole night. They had dried up, colour turned brownish, and the nice aroma faded. She wrapped them in cling film and put them into the fridge. For some unknown reasons, Yukiko just didn’t want to throw them away; even she doesn’t understand why she hates to see something go to waste, even for some stale shiso leaves.

*

Chicken with pickled plum and shiso leaves
Ingredients:
200g Chicken breast, 1 Cucumber, 6 Green shiso leaves, 1 Pickled plum, some sesame

Seasoning:
1 tsp Salt

Steps:
Put salt in water and bring to a simmer. Boil the chicken breast until cooked.
Cool off the chicken; shred the meat.
Cut the cucumber into thin strips.
Remove the seed from the plum. Mash the plum flesh.
Chop up the shiso leaves.
Add in sesame and mix all the ingredients. Ready to serve.

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