Daysong Graphics
Sara Goff

SARA GOFF has published in several New York City journals, as well as on She’s received fellowships to Summer Literary Seminars in Russia and Kenya, and was a writing workshop leader at The National Arts Club. She has spoken in NYC high schools and at St. Francis College and was a writing instructor for the homeless at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. Sara founded Lift the Lid, Inc., a school charity that encourages creative writing. Represented by literary agent Wendy Lawton, she hopes to publish her first novel soon. Learn more about Sara, her family, and her passion for writing at

Smell of Burnt Vegetables

Tara squinted into the plume of brown smoke as she pulled a tray of vegetables out of the oven. The tips of each stalk were burned charcoal black. Browned cauliflower looked dipped in caramel. Eight o’clock on the nose and dinner was ready, as usual.

She sat alone at the dining room table cluttered by her laptop and Blackberry, binders and stacks of colored note cards. “Back to work.” Searching for a recent interview, she heard the click of a lock followed by the door opening. She looked up. “Jeremy, is that you?”

He appeared in the room, pulling off his tie, eyes bright. “Surprise! I’m home early! Let’s do something. Let’s go out.”

“Now?” She was happy to see him, of course, but she had been looking forward to her nightly routine.

Jeremy, his shirt half-unbuttoned, wrapped his arms around her. “Hmm.” He brushed his lips over her neck, sending yummy shivers . . . which she brushed off at once. “Stop. That’s enough.”

He held on tighter. “You smell like . . . burnt vegetables. Well, never mind what you smell like. Let’s go out for a nice dinner. We haven’t been out in months.”

“I’d love to, but I have this deadline—”

“You always have a deadline looming over your head, or rather our heads. Come on, Tara. You spend more time writing about other people’s lives than you do living your own life.”

“That’s not fair. You can’t come home early one night and make me feel guilty.” Can’t he? Why didn’t she welcome him with a big kiss hello?

“I don’t want to guilt you into having a spontaneous night out with me. I’d like to convince you.”

“Telling me to blow off my deadline isn’t convincing. Anyway, I’ve already made my dinner.”

“You’re right.” He released his hold on her and walked away. “We shouldn’t waste all that . . . food.”

Oh, leave me alone! Tears came fast, reminding her that something needed to change. The veggies were cold, but she chomped on them, one after the other.

“By the way,” Jeremy called from the bedroom, “our place smells like rotten eggs!”

* * *

Tara walked down Park Avenue South to her yoga class. Despite morning rush-hour horns and conversations floating around her, she focused her thoughts. God, I need help. It feels like I’m chained by my routine. But it’s how I work best, and I love my work! As much as I know I need to change, I don’t want to. I won’t try to fool you, God. I can’t break the chains myself…

She stepped out of the torrent of people hurrying to work and into her classroom, the fragrance of passionflower welcoming her. A candle sputtered and popped. With a deep breath, her heart seemed to open, to expand, as if embracing the peace . . . or was it something else? An intuition, or an omen, perhaps? The feeling was undeniable, but why here? Yoga was just another part of her routine. Five days a week she walked through that door at five to nine and out again at five after ten. She cast a quizzical glance toward heaven. God? The only opportunity for change here is a deeper downward-facing dog, and that’s like cutting chain with paper!

At the far back corner of the studio, she laid out her mat and sat down, legs crossed. “Ah-umm…” Class began, and an hour later she was eager to get home and start working.

“I see you here all the time.” She heard a man’s voice and half turned while down on her knees, rolling up her mat.


He had dark shoulder-length hair and hazel eyes, and it was a safe guess to say he was the baby of the class, maybe twenty-four.

“Yes, you.” His smile suggested innocence.

Was he just being friendly, or . . . didn’t he notice the white gold band on her ring finger?

“I see how dedicated you are,” he continued, “and, well, I was wondering if you wanted to check out Solstice in Times Square with me. It’s this huge event welcoming the summer solstice with yoga—in the middle of Times Square. It’s totally free, but you have to pre-register, like commit. I’m Mark!”

“Tara.” She extended her hand and they shook. She was flattered. “I don’t think so. I appreciate you asking, though.”

“They call it Mind over Madness,” he said, ignoring her refusal. “Supposedly, if you can stay focused in the midst of life’s madness—hence Times Square—you’ve mastered the ultimate principle of yoga.”

“I’m married,” she blurted out.

“Married people can go.” He chuckled.

“Right.” Her face felt hot. She couldn’t imagine doing happy baby pose in the middle of Times Square, but then she remembered that feeling of her heart opening, as if God were airing her out for a new experience, for change . . . for yoga in Times Square? Mark was definitely cute, but that shouldn’t be a factor. “I’ll think about it.”

* * *

Jeremy tiptoed into their bedroom. Emptying his pockets, he dropped some coins. Tara heard him fumbling in the dark to pick them up. She reached above her pillow and turned on the light.

“Sorry,” he said, looking as worn as his wrinkled shirt.

“It’s all right,” she replied. “I couldn’t sleep. Do you have the energy to hear about my day? I’m thinking of doing yoga in Times Square on the twenty-first.”

“Go for it.” He pulled on the Going Fishing pajamas she’d given to him for Christmas years ago and crash landed on their bed. She thought about mentioning Mark and felt flushed just picturing his impetuous grin.

“Good night, Tara.” Jeremy kissed her cheek and switched off the light.

* * *

Tara unrolled her yoga mat at 46th Street and Broadway. Hundreds of yogis participating in the Solstice celebration waited for the instructor to begin, while Mark sat cross-legged on his mat beside her.

“You look like you’re about to take the bar exam,” he said, laughing.

She had told him about her law degree and how she’d ditched it to write biographies. Courageous was the word he used.

“I guess I’m not very comfortable with doing yoga in public. It feels like being at a nude beach.”

“We can do that next.” He smirked.

She stretched her legs, hopelessly blushing.

The instructor asked everyone to stand. On Tara’s first inhale, she reached for the sun hidden behind billowy clouds. The lights of Times Square swirled around her like confetti as she did a swan dive for her toes. On her second inhale, still touching her toes, back arched, looking up at rows of yogis in the same pose, she realized she wasn’t like them, there to celebrate the solstice. Her reasons were egotistical, celebrating a young man’s attention. In warrior pose, the chains of her routine flashed across her mind, today broken. God had answered her prayer, but with a temptation much greater than isolation.

“I have to go,” she whispered to Mark. “Thank you.” She snatched up her mat and ducked out of the group.

Tara ran until she reached Jeremy’s office building, pausing only to scribble her name at the security desk. She took the express elevator to the thirty-fifth floor, bypassed Jeremy’s assistant, and barged into her husband’s office.

“Is everything all right?” he asked, setting down the telephone receiver.

She was breathing hard. “Jeremy, I’ve been on another planet for months, or longer even. But I’m back. Can we go out for lunch? I miss you and don’t want to take you for granted another day.” Would he drop what he was doing?

“I hear the only food on your planet is burnt vegetables.” His eyes shimmered. “I’d love to go out for lunch with you, a long lunch.” He grabbed his jacket. “So what brought you back?”

“God found a way. I’ll tell you all about it.”

Jeremy took her hand and they walked out of his office, together.

© Sara Goff 2011