By Christopher Hughes
There was a table in the kitchen that expanded from the middle, napkins made from cheap cloth dyed burgundy, and little wooden napkin rings. It all came from my mother. She had insisted with a kind of maternal fervor that implied both satisfaction and expectation, and I knew that any resistance to her offering would result in hard feelings. So I took it and went to the grocery store and bought ten packages of spaghetti noodles and ran into five people on aisle sixteen. They peered invasively into my cart. I’m having a dinner party, I said, and they invited themselves. When I got to the checkout line, the clerk called me Mister Hughes. It was either a sign of respect or mockery, I couldn’t tell. He wore a cap that said Jesus Saves. I wondered if it was religious or an advertisement. He scanned the noodles, the sauce, all the veggies I intended to cut and dice and sauté, with a curious look on his face, and I sensed he was going to ask. It’s for a dinner party, I said. Could I have the leftovers, he asked. Sure, I said. I like to put corn in my sauce, he said. For consistency. Okay, fine, I told him. He called over the bagging kid and sent him on an errand. The line backed up. The kid returned with multiple ears of corn. The clerk scanned them, grinning.
When I got home, I put on some Bill Evans, washed a pile of dishes in the sink, brought out the half empty bottle of gin that I’d hidden away after an unfortunate evening some months ago. I poured two fingers and dumped in the olive juice and called it a martini. Then I mopped the floor with Pine-Sol, wiped down the table with lemon-scented Pledge, straightened the framed pictures hanging crooked on the walls, changed the litter, vaccumed the cat hair off of everything, made the bed, moved the piles of books on the living room floor to the bedroom floor, and lit a ten dollar candle that smelled like cotton candy. People began to arrive soon after, all of them with a single bottle of red wine in hand. I led them to the corkscrew. We drank with purpose. Groups of three or four clustered around my living room and chatted agreeably about whatever. I went to the kitchen and stared at the corn and wondered what to do with it. After an hour or so, the food was done. I put a stack of dishes and utensils on the kitchen counter and a line formed. I watched them as they scooped the noodles onto their plates, stirred and poured thick red sauce dotted with yellow specks, grabbing at toast soaked in butter and refilling their wine glasses. We sat down to eat and somebody offered to say a blessing and it got awkard. I drank more. So did they. My cooking was adequate. Then I remembered the leftovers, and all of a sudden tupperware became important to me, and I thought maybe I was a grownup.
Christopher Hughes is the author of Selected Tweets, a spoken word project and ongoing collection of prose poems based around the idea of giving context to his otherwise vague Twitter feed. He is the singer, guitarist and songwriter for The Calmative, and he produces other artists as well, out of his studio, Miscellaneous Sound. He holds an MFA in creative writing from The New School, has been published in Pax Americana, Omnia Vanitas Review and the Augury Books blog, and lives within spitting distance of Midway Mart.