Cold Spaghetti

She spent a while trying to pinpoint when exactly it had gone wrong. The night at the cinema? No – that had been fine, they were both tired and it was a late movie, so it was acceptable for him to want to head home instead of coming inside, and for her to be secretly glad.
By the weekend they had gone to Georgie’s birthday do it was already a disaster, their relationship teetering on a precipice, with every movement by one to clutch the other only forcing themselves further out. She had gotten drunk that night and everything was a little hazy after ten o’clock or so, but there had been tears (hers?) and a broken shoe and a stern voicemail from Georgie the next day mentioning something about broken flutes and champagne on the carpet. She had woken up alone; it was more than alone, she had woken up single. Hungover, still exhausted and with the firm knowledge that her relationship, if not officially ended, was now certainly over. It was the only thing she knew for sure.
Perhaps it had been the Thursday. After the aborted film-and-nightcap date and Monday’s quick-lunch-between-meetings date, she’d tried to make an effort. He had to be convinced. He had work in the morning and didn’t want to stay over – would there be wine? She’d taken this to mean he didn’t want her to drink – why did people always ask her if there would be alcohol?- when really he was just worried about legal driving limits for his trip back uptown, and they’d had a bit of a tiff over the phone which ended with her breathy gasp when she realised he was going to hang up on her a split second before she hung up on him. That had been in the morning before he went to work and she went to do whatever she did that day. By lunchtime, she had forgotten that he hadn’t actually said he was coming.
At four pm she stepped into the kitchen laden with those brightly coloured shopping bags made from recycled milk cartons or some other plastic that people said filled the oceans and killed baby dolphins. She chopped and minced and sautéed and crumbed and swore when she realised she’d forgotten to pre-heat the oven. At a quarter to five she popped the tray of meatballs in and opened some crackers and the red wine. It needed to breathe.
At six, he hadn’t arrived, which she found quite rude so she had a glass to herself. At seven, she figured he must be close, so she put the pasta on to boil and then turned off the heat to the stovetop and the oven fifteen minutes later. At nine, she finished the last of the wine and ran herself a bath. If he didn’t want dinner, at least he’d be pleasantly surprised to find her naked and slippery when he walked in.
After her bath she called him and he took a long time to answer and sounded quite sleepy.
“Laura? What is it?”
“What is it? You were meant to come for dinner, is what. I’ve been waiting.”
“You’ve been drinking. I never said I’d come for dinner. We can speak tomorrow, I’m going back to sleep.”
“SLEEP? It’s barely ten! [it was actually close to midnight] The dinner is ruined and there is no more wine!”
“Go to sleep Laura, We’ll talk later.”
He said this with a weariness that came from more than a late night wake up call. He hung up before she could begin a well-worn tirade that started with either accusations of cheating or lack of commitment (depending on the day), progressed into tears about how she was never good enough and finished with either a distraught wailing or a purring enticement to come on over and let her prove herself. He wasn’t sure at this point which was worse.
She actually gave a few lines of the tirade automatically before realising he’d already rung off, then went to fetch herself a bowl of pasta before bed. The liquid had soaked in as the spaghetti cooled; blurring the edges of where water ended and pasta began. The remaining juice was gelatinous, just forming a skin. She wrinkled her nose, wished for more wine and rinsed it in hot water. Still gelatinous.
She rinsed it until the water went cold, or perhaps it had always been cold – she had refilled her bath several times and the tank took a while to reheat. Either way, the pasta clung to its jellied coating; it slipped silkily from the slotted spoon like it was trying to evade her grasp; it felt both heavy and insubstantial in her throat as she ate it, cold and plain from a mug because the mug was right there and the bowls were so, so far back in the cupboard.
The strings of spaghetti reformed in her stomach and seemed to sit there for days, a ridiculous knot of gluten reminding her that she couldn’t even cook well, of course he didn’t show up for dinner; of course he left her and probably ran away with some Scandinavian model. Laura coveted everything Scandi style, but especially the blonde hair, long legs and lack of any worldly troubles. The knot of pasta was there even now, and she was on to straight vodka to try and wash the feelings in her stomach away. Maybe if she could just get rid of any evidence that she’d failed the dinner, maybe he would come back.

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