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In idle moments, it’s true, you wonder whether getting a tattoo declaring Actually, I’m fine in curly cursive script would have been more worthwhile.
Still, you’ve committed now, and unlike some you’re not afraid of commitment, even if the kefir you’ve brought into your home is proving harder work than anticipated.
In layman’s terms, kefir is a fermented dairy drink. If asked about it by your mother, say exactly that.
If a colleague or your sister asks about kefir, rhapsodise about how the taste and mouthfeel of every batch is entirely unique, because kefir is alive and active. Talk about how (accompanying your words with deep, satisfied inhalation and exhalation) vital it makes you feel. Say: “Every batch is different, just like every human being.” Smile beatifically.
Try to believe your smile.
When asked if kefir can go bad, be evasive. It’s possible the person addressing you with this question is really trying to find out if you’ve gone bad, and whether, as your mother’s sighs hint, your isolation since the divorce is cause for concern.
If they stare at you searchingly, lock gazes until they’re compelled to glance away.
Repeat: “Each batch of kefir is unique.”
Admit as a caveat: “It may present as fizzy, or even sour. Don’t assume that means it isn’t doing amazing things for you.”
Take a breath if they insist on asking, “But how can you be sure it hasn’t spoiled?”
Refuse to be baited.
Instead, lower your voice and comment that mottling is natural to the aging process, and in no way indicates that the kefir is past its best.
Say the same thing with regards to kefir that has separated, smells off or comes across as “too strong, whatever that means.”
Say blithely: “Often, a little kindness is all that’s needed.”
If this reply prompts confusion, remind them that every individual’s perception is distinct. “Sour kefir is perfectly safe to consume, even if you, personally, find it a little sharp at times.”
Don’t mention him. Don’t confess that the person he now lives with is 10 years younger, and looks it.
If your colleague or sister opt for the easy option and buy kefir from a supermarket, they’ll probably want to observe the best-before-date printed on the label. Point out that since kefir is fermented, they ought to offer it more respect as it ages rather than less. The package date is merely an indication of how long the kefir’s flavour will appeal to oversensitive, arguably juvenile, taste buds. While store-bought kefir may become more intense with time, propose they adapt their palette rather than rashly casting it out.
Tell them that their experiences of kefir may have more to do with them than the kefir. Offer the recommendation that they try accepting it as it is: “You can’t force it to fit your preconceived ideas of what tastes good.”
Daydream about retreating to somewhere windswept and isolated with only gulls for company. And, perhaps, a cat that will greet you eagerly in the mornings.
Advise your sister that once the kefir is stripped bare of its packaging, there’s a chance of microbial contamination. In other words, the vulnerable kefir can easily be damaged by careless treatment.
Reconsider the cat and instead envision a garden with a bird-table made from reclaimed driftwood, where bluetits will squabble over the fat balls you’ll hang for them.
Muse that fat balls might be a good nickname for someone.
Warn your sister’s boyfriend that to reduce likelihood of bitterness developing they should keep their kefir cool and calm. Counsel them to shield it from impurities and to treat it with reverence.
State that under no circumstances ought they to freeze their kefir. While it’s possible to thaw, stir back into life and consume, there’s a chance they will have killed off everything they once loved about their active, opinionated kefir.
Resist rolling your eyes regarding the silky hair, smooth skin and pleasing disposition of your ex’s new partner – all qualities he noted in his helpful farewell WhatsApp message as now lacking in yourself.
Cling to the knowledge that it’s his fault you’ve grown so bitter and that with a little self-care and attention you have it in you to regain your former sweetness.
Hold tightly to your certainty that the kefir will restore you to your best, most vibrant self.
About Judy Darley
Judy Darley can't stop writing about the fallibilities of the human mind. Her stories, essays and poems are widely published by literary anthologies, magazines and websites in the UK, New Zealand, Canada, US, and India, including Cypress, The Mechanics' Institute Review and The Pomegranate. Judy is the author of short fiction collections Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me to the Bees (Tangent Books). Her third collection, The Stairs are a Snowcapped Mountain, will be published by Reflex Press in 2022. You can find Judy at http://www.skylightrain.com; https://twitter.com/JudyDarley.
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