spaghetti and clams, but not in the same old way. I don't make spaghetti and
clams with the big overhead light shining down from the kitchen ceiling like a
search helicopter. I only use the light from the stove, and maybe a candle or
something small to add a bit of glow from some far corner of the room. People
make food all wrong. They forget that the best part of cooking isn't eating—it's cooking. And if you think I'm a fool, if you think that food doesn't give a
damn how it's prepared or what kind of freaking light is shining in the kitchen
when it's moving slowly towards its next role in life, its next reincarnation—dude, you're wrong about that.
I open a can
of clams. I open another can of clams, I hear them. I sip a tiny bit of wine
and drain the juice from the can into a pint glass so I can dump it in the
sauce after I slide the chopped parsley in, and I feel good enough, electrified
enough by the buzz, by the evening wrapping her arms around me from behind, that
I can hear f*cking clams from a can talking to me, trust me.
they say isn't all that important. Canned clams, even fresh ones, they talk
jive. They don't beg for freedom or anything like that. They want to be eaten. They
want to play a part in something big, something meaningful, just like you or me
or anybody else. Human beings go around thinking they have the world corned
when it comes to feelings and dreams or whatever, but we're just morons. Other
stuff is living too, even when it seems like it ain't. Garlic has eyes. Linguine,
thing is, I make spaghetti and clams and it lifts me up. I put on my jazz, I
keep the lights low, I peck at the wine in my glass. Nothing can touch me when
I cook this meal. A small plane could crash into the side of the house and I
wouldn't stop my slow stirring. I'd just take a small splash of wine and let it
roll down my throat and dig what I'm feeling inside.
thing though. I've made this meal, I've done this spaghetti and clams thing
hundreds of times over the last decade. But I've only ever cooked it for
Monica. Maybe I cooked it a time or two when some guests were over, but Monica
was always there, you know? It became one of those things that I did for me,
but also for her. I'd never cook spaghetti and clams by myself. I mean, I
couldn't. I'd miss her too much and every bite would taste like some other
time, some other evening long since come and gone, when we would sit there on
the couch slurping the limp pasta off our forks as it tried to slither its way
back down into the sauce pond on plate.
I let the jazz float up into the air above my head and it makes me higher than all the dope in the land, drunker than all the wine in the kingdom, as I take two plates out of the cabinet, one for me, one for her.
wait, sometimes interminably, for her to say the words she'd ultimately say.
She never gushes unless she's drunk. She doesn't heap praise over to my side of
the couch with every damn bite because:
a) she doesn't roll that way
b) she knows, subconsciously, that I want her to say it, to
praise the f-ing meal, and she likes to make me wait, I think.
It was a dance. A spaghetti and clams dance between me and
her, between her and the only person in the world who had connected the very
art and practice of preparing and then downing a certain meal with her very
existence. With her very presence in his evening, in his world.
We split up and I never even bought a can of clams. Never even
looked at one. To hell with them, I thought. I can't go down that road. It's an
oddity in a sense, I suppose, to be immediately haunted by a woman so strongly
the instant you snap the can opener into a three-dollar can of dead, chopped
shellfish, but there you go. Love is an oddity. Lost love is a plastic shake
bottle of parmesan cheese that talks to you when you drink wine.
I don't even know what that means. But I know it to be true,
OK? Believe me—there is a lot of wordless writing going on here.
Time went on and you know how it goes with these things. I
never made spaghetti and clams because I loved it too much because it was me
and her and now it wasn't. I never smelled the garlic heating up in the olive
oil anymore. I never bought jars of clam juice down at the Walmart. I didn't do
any of it and I missed all of it and that sucked, but slowly, over time, you
let things slide away from you. You begin to forget what you never dreamed
I switched to rigatoni. Alone. Rigatoni All Aloni. Ha. I made
marinara instead of clam sauce and I kept the lights low, played the jazz, the
whole thing, but, yeah. It wasn't the same. You can't replace someone sitting
there in the other room, sipping her wine, hungry, staring at the TV, someone
wildly special waiting patiently for you to get through your whole preparation
waltz, waiting happily for you to move down through your own personal Tommy
Lasorda trip until you finally snap out of it and serve her your finest.
You can't eat magic food by yourself and expect it to be
anything but lonesome and weird, really.
But the galaxy has a funny way of steering you around, man.
And I'm cooking the spaghetti and clams again, here and there. It feels so
good, too. I can't even tell you. It's scary and uncertain and all, I guess,
but at the same time, I can't lie to you:
I stand there in that kitchen with the lights twisted low and
the garlic hissing in the oil and I let the wine slip down into the fire that
has always burned inside me, and I look at myself in the reflection of the window above the sink, a window which—if I were to shatter the glass
and crawl out into the cold, cold night—I could just start walking straight
into the darkness and never ever look back and I could be very, very far away
from everything and everyone in two or three dawns, and I shake the box of
linguine side to side like an instrument, like a shaker or a maraca, and I let
the jazz float up into the air above my head and it makes me higher than all
the dope in the land, drunker than all the wine in the kingdom, as I take two
plates out of the cabinet, one for me, one for her.