A Story by Tracey R

This is a short story/fictional essay. In second person, it reconciles the transience of attachment with the need for giving and being wanted by another.


The butter is beginning to melt like I do when you ask me for a favor.  It looks calm while it spreads itself across hot metal.  Soon it will be nothing more than a clear glaze, invisible but screaming with flavor.

I think to a time when you were nothing to me.  It was just weeks ago, and now you’re sitting on my couch in the next room, reading a magazine in dim light as I empty this package of frozen pasta into boiling water.  Sunlight is just now fading from the sky and I’m hesitant to switch on the lights, to change anything.  The thought of this day reaching its end, with the full force of inevitability, well, this day has been too good for that.  I wonder if you’ll wake tomorrow morning, or one day soon and change your mind, decide it’s been enough.  I wonder if you’re here because you have no were else to be.  You’ve given me no reason to think these things, but still I worry, thinking that maybe you will leave as suddenly as you came, like this hot water, that is beginning to bubble itself into space.

I can barely cook a thing and I’d never do it for myself.  But I find myself chopping garlic, clumsily sliding it into the pan where it dances about for a moment and sizzles, filling my apartment the smell of something like home for the first time.  I could be organizing the bookshelf, packed with useless stacks of paper; I’ve been staring at it for a month now from the couch.  And I should be reading that article on Brain Organization and Laterality that no doubt would make me smarter.  It’s on the coffee table where you’ve rested your feet.  I clipped it from Scientific American last week and thought to myself, you are going to read this because you find it interesting.

So I want this to come out right.  I know these flavors are simple and this is only pasta.  I know you’ve had better pasta and you will have better.  I haven’t told you this quite yet because I’m afraid of what you might think, but I find so little in this world of any interest.  Most of the time I feel I have been left out of it entirely, a helpless spectator of the machine that has become men. I fear that I may be becoming mechanical, or plastic, or that my senses have been sanded down, rubbed dull.  So I don’t know why but at this moment I feel myself on fire, and I cannot say for sure, but I think that if can stimulate your senses with this simple act, mine too will be revived.

The flames leap at the sides of the pot before me because I’ve set the dial too high, but I’m willing to sweat from my pores if I have to. And at least the fire is hotter than it is faint.  I won’t ever give you less than you need, if I can help it.  I don’t even know what it is about you.  It’s this energy you have that I can’t explain, this kind that works itself into my muscles, that heats my arteries and warms my blood.  I cannot find the strength to keep myself from it.  I turn down the dial and watch the pasta as it boils.

drop some pesto sauce into the hot garlic, watch the oil simmer, stir it up a little with a wooden spoon.  I feel guilt welling up inside of me. Like I should tell you this instant that I might not be able to keep this going.  This is a one time thing, I should tell you, I can’t go on playing house forever, so you better enjoy it.   You enter the kitchen and you peer over my shoulder.  And I am startled because at first you look so distant, and at best, I recognize the structure of your cheekbones and the subtlety of the hand that you rest on the small of my back. How did you get in here…? …the doors are locked and its such a late hour to be wandering into my kitchen…  But something within me assures me that I know you well, that it doesn’t matter what you do or say as long as you stay the same as you are, right at this very moment.  Neither of us says a word, and I think that it is better than way, because I can taste what you want through the heat of your fingertips and I think I would do anything to give it to you.

I beckon you to sit down at the table.  I pour the pasta through a sieve, let the water drain.  I divide it into a couple of bowls, pour on the pesto, and try what I have made.  I’m not hungry at all, but these ingredients are all I’ve got. I don’t know if it’s any good. I am a poor judge of myself.   And in due time, everything I have just created is going to vanish, and so I find it strange, working so hard for only a few moments of savoring.  The smell of garlic will linger in the air, and even that will have faded in a couple of hours, and then some time will pass and all will be forgotten.  But I think, that having done this for you, having truly meant it, that I have satisfied my hunger for purpose, even if just for now. All I ask, simply, is that you hand me your plate when you are done and that you relax while I clean up the mess I have made. All of these dirty dishes make me feel like the day has been long.  I think I’ll sleep easy now.  

© 2015 Tracey R

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Well, I thought this was excellent! The simplistic effort of cooking pasta has a much deeper meaning for your character and that is quite evident. Sometimes, doing simple things is all we can do to keep us going when things just aren't quite right. I'm not exactly sure what you had in mind here (and that's okay) but I sense depression as seen through your character's eyes and finding her purpose is just in making the simple meal. If I have this wrong, let me know, but maybe I see this because I have dealt with depression. You portray your character very well. Good job!

Posted 2 Years Ago

yow,. you gotta fix the font size on this thing

Posted 3 Years Ago

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First sentence comma stops it from sliding like melting butter. Then, I find something slightly too unbelievable about butter "looking calm" -- perhaps because it does not own a face; it might be that more fantasy is needed to push for a level of anthropomorphism for something so non-living.
Second para: the way the "reading a magazine in dim light" sentence is constructed invites me to find parallels between the narrator and the 'you' -- at this point I can't find one yet. Then I find the "leave as suddenly" as boiling water a little puzzling, as boiled water does not leave, it merely turns into its gaseous form.
The third paragraph anchors us clearly into a character, and it might be preferable for some readers if this came earlier.
As with your first story, there is a void around the 'you' that I think many readers will find hard to fill.
Typo: "no were else to be".

Posted 5 Years Ago

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3 Reviews
Added on May 11, 2013
Last Updated on September 18, 2015
Tags: relationships, love, cooking, second-person


Tracey R
Tracey R

New York, NY

Hi. I'm here to reunite with writing after some time. For four years now I have been studying and working in the field of Addiction Psychology. Prior, I wrote fiction and nonfiction in college, mo.. more..


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