How does a grown man get into this situation?
How does a guy like me, a guy with a job, with a life that’s going somewhere, with the wherewithal to understand and control my surroundings, a guy with friends and family who can be reliably counted on, a guy who works outs and eats right most of the time, a guy with diverse hobbies and interests, a guy in great mental health condition end up in a situation like this?
My jaw is sore. My throat feels swollen nearly shut. I keep slurping, though. I can’t just stop.
Spaghetti, right? We all make spaghetti every once and a while. Even for someone who can’t cook too well, someone who is an unnaturally poor cook, unable to envision how raw ingredients can possibly turn into a scrumptious meal, even they can boil noodles. We’ve all made and eaten spaghetti. It’s normal. It’s so, so normal. Like me. I’m normal. I live a normal life.
I made spaghetti tonight all by my lonesome. I plopped a fister of noodles in a rolling boil and set the time for 11 minutes. I don’t test noodles, never have. I trust the pasta engineers at the pasta factory have worked out the science. The noodles swelled and softened, limply coiling in the hot water, and as I sat there and watched them cook for those 11 straight minutes, my stomach grumbled away. It was a real performance, a monologue of hunger and betrayal. I tried to calm my talkative belly with a little light humming, but I couldn’t hold a tune with a face full of rising steam and eyes full of wheat worms. They do look like worms, don’t they?
The timer beeped a boop and I drained the wiggly suckers of their bath, only to splat a new jacuzzi right on top of them. Sauce, baby. Some red sauce with a friendly looking fellow smiling away on the label. That’s the kinda guy I want making spaghetti sauce, and my noodles were swimming it
It all was making sense.
My pruny, puckered lips noisily draw in another full mouther of noodle, the same noodle. I groan and open my jaw to jiggle it back and forth, to try to get some feeling back in the buddy. Instead, I gag myself on the noodle.
Most folks don’t have a problem eating all alone night after night, and I’m no exception. Hell, I’d say a lot of us got no choice in the matter. Why would I care if I had to make dinner by myself and horf it down in the basking glow of the TV rapidly flashing shapes and colors of some new show that everyone is saying is so good despite just coming out that day? I don’t care. That’s what I do. That’s what I was doing. My hot bowl of spaghetti, spaghetti for one. My nice hot TV, TV for one.
People live like this, a lot do. They don’t worry about what they’re eating or what to do if something goes wrong during the mastication process. It’s simple. Put the food in your mouth, chew it up enough, then gulp swallow the load down. You do it everyday, don’t you? In your mind, there’s a start and end to every bite, every meal, isn’t there? C’mon, of course there is. Bite goes in, bite goes down, and down the road those accumulated bites gather up and go out. Normal people, a normal person like me, would never worry about anything otherwise. It was a normal night.
I sat down with my piping hot bowl of spaghetti, kicked my feet up on the table, and plunged my fork into the tentacline mass of glutey goodness. That’s my favorite part, the prebite. I love to jangle my fork around in it, really hear the wet slapping and sloshing, the excited noodles slithering and dancing in the sauce, twirling and entwining upon the tines of my utensil, and that first bite? Oh, it was a whopper. A nest of noodles, with not just whisps, but columns of steam rising nearly a foot off the fork. Why did ancient man spend his thinking for hours, enraptured by the flickering flames of a fearsome fire? There’s power in the ephemeral serpentine twists of fire, smoke, and steam, and at that moment, I felt very moved. This was to be a particularly excellent bowl of noodles.
My hand trembled with that huge wad of spaghetti firmly forked, yet flowing still into the heaping bowl. Was it too much spaghetti? At the time, it felt right.
Licking my lips in anticipation and then spreading them open invitingly, I shoved in the bundle. Immediately, the intense heat of the hot out the pot spaghetti scorched the roof of my mouth as well as my tongue. But, aha! I’ve been here before. I know the countermeasures to take when gluttony overtakes reason! Any normal person in my situation would have done the same dog damned thing. I opened my mouth with rapid, wide chews and inhaled in short bursts to create a reverse blow. This of course did nothing, but my frantic gasping did well to scatter my thoughts enough to tolerate the pain.
Certainly you would do the same in my position. You can’t just spit out the food, regurgitate what’s already half throated. Right? You understand where I’m coming from, surely you do.
When I settled my kettle and returned to a conventionally stuffed gob, I noticed one of my favorite things about spaghetti: a dangling noodle. Yes. The best part about spaghetti, the best part of any lengthy noodle dish is the long, long slurpers in the bowl.
So, I slurped. An uneven grip of my sucker’s lips caused that all too familiar sound. Little spats of air squeaked and tooted through as I slurped until my lungs collapsed against my spine. Spaghetto still playfully dangling, I inhaled a sailor’s breath and continued the slurping, with my veteran molars working tireless at gnashing up the forkful from before. Slurp and swallow, slurp and swallow, slurp and swallow. It was a long, long, long spaghetti strand.
Sauce flicked like spittle from a furious politician, dotting my face and shirt, sprinkling me with rude mess. I squinted my eyes and powered through like I always do with a stubborn longy like that. Only, I couldn’t gulp it down. It just kept coming, just kept chugging, just kept undulating in with every suck and tongue tugg’em.
I sigh and a burp weaves through the noodle roots, hissing out through my mouth and nose like a gas leak.
Frustration gave way to befuddlement, and the befuddlement begot curiosity. Now just how long is this noodle? I thought to myself, still mechanically reeling in the specimen. Was the whole bowl just one big ol’ spaghetto baby? No. You’ve made spaghetti before, so you know that it’s never just one big spaghetto baby. It’s a bunchy bundle of babies boiling together. You can eat a single noodle without any problems, and even if you do hit a speed bump or two in your horfing experience, a single noodle is easily choked down or coughed up. It’s messy, it’s not graceful, but it’s not a big issue get the tissue.
I stood up— it’s something competitive eaters do. I hopped up and down trying to jiggle the food down my throat. It should have sloughed in easily. It should have slid right down my gullet, so lubed up with savory sauce as it was. But no. It held on, stayed bowled.
I pulled the bowl away from my chin, but that noodle spanned the expanse. My fork gathered up the middle portion in a good little noodle knot and then I pulled that in the opposite direction, I had a noodle going from my mouth, to my outstretched right hand all the way to the right, then back across my dirty shirt to the bowl in the outstretched hand to my left, in my left hand that is.
Noodles shouldn’t be this long! Why? Why am I being subjected to this?
Still I kept chewing and swallowing and sucking and slurping and grunting and smacking my lips. It was tough work. I huffed through my nose like the long distance runners on the internet tell me to do even though I hardly ever run. I did achieve that athletic focus though, a sort of slurper’s high, if you will.
Exhausted, plopping my bottom back on the couch, I decided to take a little break from the spaghetti sucking. I spasmed with a sudden cough. I was gagging on the noodle. Had I not been chewing it? My esophageal rejection became more and more violent. I didn’t want to be done with it or give up, but sometimes you just gotta be done with it and give up. I chomped down on the noodle amidst the coughing fit, but it was like biting down on a rubber cable. My teeth squeaked right off the surface like eating dolphin meat, or what I imagine eating dolphin meat is like. This gnawing effort only worsened the gagging irritation while putting no dent in the noodle.
What else could I have done?
What else can I do?
I bit my tongue. I dropped the bowl on the table, shattering it by accident, but I couldn’t quite control much of any part of my situation at that moment. Trying to save myself from being one of those shriveled up bodies found by a neighbor weeks after they died, I two-fisted, ham-grabbed, mit-gripped the gluten python. The intent was to simply undo all my slurp earned work for the sake of my obstructed airway, but one good tug made me rethink that endeavor. Loudly gagging, a gutteral expulsion of verbal discomfort flung from my throat with all the grace of an old man carrying groceries falling down the stairs.
My eyes watered, and I yelled as best as I could to mind-over-matter the noodle, but it was too much. Pulling the noodle out was too much to bear. I sat back down on the couch. My ribs and abdomen ached something fierce. All this gagging and slurping was doing a number on my core. The hot flood of lactic acid permeated throughout. Still, I choked.
There was only one course of action left, working my jaw and tongue like the hands of an off-shore fisherman reeling in a net, I continued on with the ingestion of the spaghetti noodle. Though arduous, it eased the unpleasantness to make sitting there on my couch somewhat tolerable.
I hang a handful of noodle above my head and let gravity spelunk it down. My cheeks are so sore, my tongue can barely move. Better than the alternative.
Shaken and flummoxed by it all, I sat in silence. Shifting colors and shapes from the TV could distract until it was over. The Netflix screen shuffled through stills of upcoming and critically acclaimed shows, or at least just the hand picked ones they want me to see. In front of me, the pile of spaghetti liberated from its bowl looked enormous, but not impossible. Though, how much I had eaten already, I had no idea. I was certainly content with my intake for the night, but I had to persist.
It’s been hours, many long hours.
I looked for my phone. I had to try to call someone and explain to them what was happening or something. Maybe someone could do something. It was worth a shot. But who to call? My parents were out of the country on some sort of twentieth honeymoon or whatever they call a regular ol’ vacation. My closest friend was also out of town visiting his brother at college to show him how well the big kids can drink, and to probably just buy him all the alcohol. That left the B-list of contacts, all of whom I would almost never call in any circumstance. What would I even say?
I was getting worried about my condition though. I was afraid to stop eating the spaghetti noodle, because otherwise I would choke to death. It was cold by then, and the once slippery noodle now clung to my esophagus. Each pulse of muscular contraction was laborious, but necessary to keep from choking.
The concentration it took to continuously ingest that noodle put me in a mental fog. I had train tunnel vision, just focusing on popping out the other end to reveal an idyllic countryside that keeps the train travel industry in business.
Then it hit me. I was so stupid. Scissors. I’ll just cut the damn noodles and be done with it. Throw the pile in the garbage or maybe even a dishwasher safe Tupperware container. That was a solid plan. I lurched to my feet and took two good steps towards the kitchen where my scissor savior rested, but I felt a tug in my throat. I was tethered to the pile of spaghetti on my little table in front of my couch. I choked again. I almost forgot to keep eating. The pile had to go with me, but picking it up was a challenge, no matter which way I heaped the noodles into my hands and arms and shirt, I just couldn’t get all of it. Just like the stubborn worm in my throat, the table spaghetti was cold and sticky. My hands were covered in yellowish gluten residue and drying tomato sauce. Of course, I couldn’t tear it apart.
Rage bubbled up inside of me right alongside the indigestion. I decided I just had to tough it out, make a real rough and tumble man’s man move. Suddenly and hastily, as if to fool the spaghetti, I made a break for it.
The unspooling zip through my clenched jaw vibrated my skull, my soul. The pain was… unlike anything I had ever felt. It wasn’t just my jaw, throat, and guts, but something deeper, ancient, atavistic, to use a vocab word. This pain spanned eons, clutched at the psyche of collective humanity. I was numb and distant. My body and soul were holding on by just a thread, that noodle. Beyond that? Some oblivion I couldn’t possibly know.
I did get to the scissors, though. They didn’t work.
Defeated, exhausted, I munched my way back to the couch. If the spaghetti tether was difficult to eat before, I had another ten feet or so of regurgitated noodle to gurgitate again. Disgust was better than annihilation.
Keep working it down. It’s the only way to stay steady, to stay present, to stay alive. There will be an end. The noodle scrapes across my chapped lips like a malicious inch worm.
I called my friend and hung up after one ring. What could I have said? I did the same thing with my parents. I called them again, arranging my thoughts as coherently as this wonkiness allowed.
They didn’t pick up. Stupid. They were 6 hours ahead, vacation, right. They’re old. They were asleep.
I texted my friend. I didn’t even bother with pleasantries. No ‘what’s up’ or ‘how’s or going?’, no. I jumped right into it and told him the strange stranglehold a strand of spaghetti had on me. It was a long series of texts and they probably made me seem like a lunatic, but he was the only guy in any position to pay attention to my situation. Sure, he couldn’t break free from his brother and drive out here, but I just needed acknowledgement. Even if he couldn’t help, he could at least empathize with my situation.
He sent back, “Spaghetti?”
Gargling down my strand, I replied with a “YES!”
“I don’t get it.” I saw the little dot-dot-dot of him typing again, “What’s with all the spaghetti emojis?”
What? Scrolling back up to my texts, I saw that they were just a series of spaghetti emojis and nothing more.
I took a picture of my situation. I took a video of this endless strand of spaghetti, this continuous culinary cruelty, a stringual glottis torture.
“Spaghetti. Okay man”
I had apparently sent some clip art of a bowl of spaghetti. Was that the way it was going to be? It wasn’t enough for the pasta to trap me in front of my TV, was it? I couldn’t just have a normal night.
I’m weak. I’m tired. I can’t sleep, though. I can’t stop eating.
I knew what he must have been thinking. He must have thought I was just messing with him, trying to goof him good while he was bro-ing down with his bro. Just in case, I called him. Why did I call him? I knew it wouldn’t turn out well.
I thought I was forming words, but all he heard was some sort of gagging, moaning mess. A garbled joke of a call expressly meant to distract him from his fun times over there. He laughed, yeah. He laughed. He thought it was funny that I was pretending to vocally throat it over the phone. Goodnight, sleep tight. That was the last I heard from my buddy.
That was five hours ago. I don’t know how much longer I can do this. There is no end in sight. The heap of noodle isn’t getting any smaller and I’m only getting fuller. I’m fit to burst and maybe that’s the way to go. Maybe that’s what the noodle wants. Maybe I will just rupture my guts all over the apartment, spilling miles of spaghetti noodle. I can picture it now, an endless stream, silly stringing, flinging and whipping, looping and roping, draping and covering everything, absolutely everything here.
Is that what it wants? Or is there an end? I’m laying flat on my back, fading in and out now as I write this out. It was a struggle to grab the sticky notes, the only paper I have in my apartment close enough to make the agony of pulling away from this spot possible. I don’t trust anything digital.
Hopefully, you’re reading this and I’m in the hospital or something. Hopefully, this means I made it out. Hopefully I’m not just a little skeleton at the center of a mound of spaghetti. Hopefully these words are as I wrote them and not a bunch of spaghetti noodle squiggles.
Who am I kidding, though?Recommended1 Simily SnapPublished in