“Keep salt in yourselves and you shall have peace with one another.”
I had to go out and get some groceries for dinner. We were making pasta. Distractions were everywhere and I did not know which store to go to. I thought of going down to the Albertsons but something about that bothered me. Maybe it was the color blue. So instead I went to Google and looked for another one nearby. What I found was some place called a Grocery Outlet and I thought that maybe someone would follow me there after I typed in my thing to Google. I thought better of it and checked my paranoia at the door. But my mind was still racing.
The streets were warm and red with the dying sun and I thought about all the people that weren’t here. I was thinking of four people, including myself. I knew that Josh was out making a movie somewhere—or maybe just working as a sort of intern. They were always working on some word processor. I had my headphones in my ears. I thought of Nathan and how his presence was still behind my shoulders looking at what music I picked on my walk over here and how it probably wasn’t up to his snuff. I was listening to city music. I bet that Robert was off somewhere typing on a computer—always so successful. I don’t really know what they do these days. I just think about them.
The Grocery Outlet was underground. I liked walking around the city streets so I was sad to leave them, but I knew they would return when I arose from beneath the Earth. If I came back that is.
Who knows, maybe this is the time the man with the gun comes into the grocery store and I just happen to be there. Or maybe the cancer decides to strike right now in this very instant, or maybe the nukes will come and destroy us all in that atomic execution that has been so promised. I don’t know.
Either way, I needed to get pasta. Rigatoni. So, I took one last look at those great big tombstones and went down with the sun. I have Italian blood in me. From my mother. I know not a lick of Italian, but it has not stopped me from quoting it elsewhere. I’m sure Josh is tired sick of me talking about Dante. Robert called me a cliché.
And I did talk about him a lot. It works so well here. The subterranean realm. The place we all go, the gates we all pass through. Abandon all hope you who enter. They sell cheap wine here.
Nathan was happy the day I told him about my job. But I got the sense that he was jealous. Jealous that he couldn’t go and do something normal like I was doing. Instead he was going to South Africa to work for the government there. His dad had gotten him the job. Talk about ancestry—a true global citizen that one.I really hated my job sometimes and I couldn’t tell you how jealous I was of him. Spreading the word—the English tongue.
The concrete tombs could still be seen from underground. Snaking around the few windows in here. Robert was the one I went grocery shopping with the most. They were from the city and they were very confident. I miss them now. I haven’t seen them since the beginning of summer when we said our great goodbyes. I felt like mine was cut off early by something, I can never remember exactly what. But Robert, Robert wrote me that beautiful note—that perfectly structured, exquisite note. It told me of my hopes and how we’re going to be friends for days and days to come and how we will all hold hands into the sun.
Robert could be a bit much sometimes, but the thought is truly beautiful. Robert and Nathan got along great. I always felt closest with Josh. But in a random sort of way. It’s not like any of us chose to be friends. We just kinda found each other. Always interested in similar things.
The sun was shining in through sad windows. People were scurrying all about and I had to practically dive out of their way. Small, Mexican grandmothers dolling out commands to their children almost ran me down until I stuck to the corners of the aisles with the other single shoppers. I wandered about; it’s a habit of mine. I ended up looking at the wines again. I had been a bit of a snob some time ago, but then I saw how much I was spending and…
Well what’s done is done. I hear my coins jingling in my pocket and I try not to think about how I ended up here and I take one step and then another in the general direction of away from here. I always thought that Josh had a bit of a drinking problem. The way they always kept trying to “share” drinks from stuff I bought for myself. It was almost instantaneous after I bought any alcohol. Can I have a beer? Are those drinks yours? Would you mind if I snag one? Of course I mind. I really fucking mind Josh. Now, please, go back to your movie.
To be honest, however, I really didn’t mind sometimes when you took my drinks. Sometimes I even planned on it. Tonight would probably be one of those nights. I have a bottle of wine and a box of wine in my cart now. I know that I would have shared the nicer bottle with you and kept the box for myself. Maybe I have the problem. Sometimes I thought I could talk you out of all your unfortunate ideas, but it always made you fly away. Maybe I’m the one with the bad ideas. I could never tell with you, Josh. We always talked each other up and out of something else. We’re making pasta tonight. Rigatoni. I am excited. I also have to get a sauce, but I am in that aisle now and there is only one sauce to ever choose.
And I walked out into the produce section somehow. I walked out right as the vegetables were being misted and I was drowned. And it is so refreshing, and I can hear that old house. Josh clapping along to some show they were watching with Nathan. Some show that was on too loud. And Robert was typing, and the keyboard was clacking and I could feel the stress coming off of them all and it was in the air and it made the air something exciting. Like our house was more than a house—we could feel each other’s stress. That’s rare.
I had talked to Nathan about my stress once. They didn’t even say that much back, but we all just need that voice to hear. It was silent and awkward, and I was high, and I was so fucking horny. I have stopped walking in this grocery store as the feeling comes over me. I was shaking, after the panic attack. I was shaking so bad because I was so horny and I thought I was going crazy. I don’t know if I just felt alone or if I was just sad and homesick but I wanted someone else. I didn’t even know how I wanted them. I just wanted.
So I went up to you while you were hanging out with your friends and I said Hey, can we talk, I’m having a panic attack. And your face went sad and then you smiled—you smiled!—and you said sure and we went back to your room. I was so happy after all of that panic and stress that my mind shut off, I looked up pasta recipes online, and then I had fallen asleep. Your room was khaki and cream. There was always warm music playing in it and you had expensive mattress pads so it felt like you were sitting on a cloud. I was nervous and unsure; I still don’t think I can cook.
All of that looping questioning that kept bringing me back to your hair and the way it flopped across your head. Your room even looked stylized after that shaggy hair and, I wanted you to push me into that bed. It was, in fact, a very weird time. I realized then that I wanted people and that I was ok being lonely. It was a little sad. I’m glad it happened.
Someone passes me by in the aisle and we make eye contact. There’s a spark.
But no such thing occurred. It almost had with Robert. Would that have been awkward? I know it would have been. When they put their head on my shoulder, I almost shoved them to the dirt. I did not know what was going on then. That was before I was lonely. It would have been so easy. A turn and a kiss and then it would have been a memory. And now I am looking at cheese because you, Robert, always liked to eat cheese. And now I have these memories and I think that I like them more.
And Josh. (and the pasta). Josh, how could I ever forget how you named me in your movie. How you and I were friends from day one. Eternally linked by something that extends far inside of us. If you ever came knocking on my door in the middle of the night, you know that I would come to you with wine in hand—yes let’s talk about time travel and panic attacks. Let’s go to cafés and sit and cry and not care about anyone else. I could talk with you forever. I am eating alone tonight. I still bought wine for you.
Rigatoni. That is what I came for. It was always waiting for me like this grocery store or the air or the tons of rigatoni that exists with me on this Earth. Rigatoni is what I came for and I take a deep breath and walk down the rows with the lights above them. My skin is tight and feels cold and I am focusing on the rigatoni. I can feel that my face is warm, and that the music is in my ear. My heart is beating and I am thinking of pasta. I can go home and cook that and that steam smell from the boiling water will surround me and fill me up. And I will salt the water. Like a warm blanket or a good memory. I am in the pasta aisle. It feels like I can just let go here in the grocery store and start crying. And I actually might, my chest isn’t tense but it feels alive. Like a copper wire with electricity inside it—almost like I am over-caffeinated. I am smiling and I don’t even think of my face. And I have found the Rigatoni. I stop and put it in my little handcart and I take a deep breath underneath the ground. My chest swells and empties until the next breath. The way home is slow and long. I can see your faces in the window reflections.