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A Watched Pot

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I stand there staring into the pot slowly heating on the stove. As tiny bubbles begin to rise from the bottom I add a few pinches of kosher salt in encouragement. The grains quickly dissolve, clouding the water like a dense fog. Next, I add a tablespoon of olive oil, so they don’t stick together. I hate that. I glance to the right of the stove and see my mother’s old copy of The Joy of Cooking. The binding is coming undone and the light blue cover has been stained and burned. The cap to a red pen is peeking out from between the pages, marking a recipe for roast chicken which I should know by heart, but can never remember. I stand there and wait. And wonder what it would feel like to stick my hand into the low boil. Only, I don't. Instead, I stand there, and stare, and once the bubbles are quarter-sized, I pour in the pasta.

It is 10pm and I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast. I haven’t been hungry. I use to have an insatiable appetite. As a lanky child, adults would always tell me how eventually my eating habits would catch up with me. Even into my teenage years, I was able to eat pretty much whatever I wanted. I finally packed on a few in college, due to John Belushi levels of self-destruction. But once I graduated and had my first real breakdown, I was put on anti-depressants. I was excited to start taking Prozac, like when you’re twelve and all your friends have braces and you want them too. Or being the last to get your period. It was a right of passage. Only, now, I have to remind myself to eat.

I sit down on the couch and turn on the TV. It is tuned to the History Channel and there is a special on ancient astronaut theory. It’s a bunch of nut-job talking heads, but I don’t change the channel, because I am too lazy, or maybe because I’m actually interested. My phone rings and it’s Scott.

“Lottie! what’s up?”
“Nothing, watching TV, eating dinner.”
“Anything good?”
“No. Just flipping.”
“Well, what are you up to tonight? Wanna come over?”
“Sure. I’ll be there in an hour.”

Our paths have crossed for almost ten years, but it is only recently that Scott and I have become friends. Mainly because it is too awkward for us not to be. We don’t have anything in common, but despite our differences, we have forged a place in each other’s lives. We both grew up in Atlanta with mutual friends, however, because we went to different high schools, we didn’t know each other. We met when we ended up at the same college, and, again, found ourselves moving within the same social circles. But Scott transferred to an Ivy League school our junior year and I quickly forgot about him. After graduation, I moved to Chicago with a boyfriend and I started running into Scott at bars. He was there working in real estate. I was working as a low level assistant at the Art Institute. Eventually, these random encounters became too frequent for us to remain casual acquaintances. So, we started calling each other to meet purposefully. I didn’t know anyone in Chicago besides my boyfriend, so I was just thrilled to have a drinking partner. After several moves and failed relationships, I found myself back in Atlanta and Scott would call me when he was in town. He would ask me to be his date to weddings and holiday parties, and I always said yes. I usually didn’t have anything better to do and he always had good coke. He was back now for a few months, studying for the LSAT, and staying at his mother’s house in Buckhead.

I drive up to his house about an hour and a half later and park my dented ‘92 Integra behind the shiny BMW in the driveway. I don’t recognize the car, but then remember how Scott told me he was selling the Mercedes he had just bought on Craigslist, because it was a piece of shit. This must be it’s replacement. Before I can ring the bell, Scott opens the door and I notice his Wayfarers sitting on top of his head even though it is almost midnight.

“You want some champagne?” he says with a wine glass in his hand.

Scott has been alone in the house for the past couple of weeks, while his mom is in Dubai, or Abu Dhabi, or somewhere. Scott’s dad is the US Ambassador to Argentina and hasn’t lived in the States for years. Since he’s had the house to himself, we have gotten into a little routine: I come over at night, we drink champagne and usually a couple bottles of wine. Then, I fall asleep in his bed, but nothing happens. The first couple of nights, I throw myself at him, but he never takes the bait. Finally, I give up and wonder if he is gay, but at the same time I don’t really care enough to ask. The routine has become comfortable and I will be sad when it ends. I feel a little like we are back in high school, which is maybe why I like it so much.

I walk into the house and sit down at the granite-topped island in the kitchen. Scott pours the champagne and begins to gossip.

“Did you hear about Cash?,” he begins.
“No, what happened?” I ask, even though I don’t want to know.
“He flipped his car Friday night and walked back to his house not remembering what happened. He was covered in blood and told his roommate he ran into a ditch, but the next day the cops found his car overturned on Moreland. ”
“Oh my God!” I say, feigning surprise.
Cash has been an alcoholic for years and these stories have become increasingly common. At this point everyone is just waiting for him to die, and I find myself annoyed that he keeps delaying the inevitable. I want to scream, “Either get your shit together or just fucking kill yourself already! But quit making me have to listen to these depressing stories!” He has become a terrible cliche and I am sick of having to pretend to be shocked and troubled. Instead, I am relieved that I’m not a close friend and don’t have to go to the interventions or talk to his parents. But I don’t tell Scott any of this.
“Holy Shit. That breaks my heart,” I say according to script.

We sit there in silence for longer than what most people would find comfortable; the sort of pauses that have come to define our relationship.

“How’s the job hunt going? Did you ever hear back from the Botanical Gardens?” he finally asks.
I immediately despise anyone who asks me about my search for employment.

“Yeah, I have  a second interview on Tuesday with the Director.”
As I say this I already know that I won’t get the job. They will find my resume impressive and the interview will go well, and I will never hear from them again. I will send follow up emails about how much I enjoyed meeting with them and how I am really interested in the position, but that will be it.

“Let’s watch a movie,” I say as I get up and walk into the living room.

Scott follows me with the bottle of champagne, which we quickly finish off. In the morning, I wake up next to him, and I don’t care whether he is gay or straight. I am just thankful that his body is warm and that we never have to talk about anything real.

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