This could be only my 1,040th bowl of ramen in my lifetime, yet all of them…
All of the all of them…
Have been elective but for one.
G served it after mixing it with a cold can of campbell’s tomato soup, undiluted. I try not to let him forget this, and every year, nearly 20 years on, his reaction becomes more brittle. It does not move me. I am merciless. Or merciful, considering I could also bring up that remark about my breasts outside of the party (like, where the hell did that come from?), the intellectual dismissal that sounded suspiciously like envy, and the time he fought me off with a sword. I mean. Tried to kill me. I don’t mention these things. I don’t mention the things I did right before and right after he did those things.
I stick to the ramen with tomato soup.
His wife can’t believe it. I suspect that’s because he doesn’t prepare it anymore. Anyway, it was horrible, I continue. Just the eleven-year-old boy of it, the look-what-I-can-do-in-the-kitchen- while-my-parents-are-in-acapulco of it. Well, what sort of dishes did you prepare? M will ask, intimating that he’s about to reveal I have no leg to put in chef pants and stand on. I cannot recall, I say, but the Hawaiians are particularly ingenius with ramen. Ramen in Hawaii is a freaking cornucopia.
Not like this bowl I just mechanically mainlandily dispatched. Devoid of campbell’s soup, devoid of delicious things selected by Hawaiians, it quietly serves its purpose of raising my sodium intake to catastrophically high levels. The cat is obsessively interested in it, using a claws-in paw to steer my spoon away from my mouth and toward hers. Too salty, I say, pointlessly to the cat. You won’t like it, I know you. Apparently she speaks no English, nor can she interpret my sometimes broad gestures. Her interest remains unabated. The cat can’t have the ramen because its a cat, M reminds me, the cat, anyone, anyone who will listen, hello.
We ignore him.
But every bowl since G’s bowl invokes the memory of that eye-popping disconnect between my expectation of dinner and the actual dinner. It makes me.. grateful, which is good, no? It also makes me laugh, because, don’t get me started, repetition is the basis of all humor. Year after year, I wait for an entirely new context to introduce the notion of G’s ramen recipe, even working it into an evening that included thai food served in gravity-defying arrangements, like roman copies of greek things swirling around a central axis; a trip to a bar that hadn’t really opened yet, but received us into its darkness where a french-speaking child came to our table with an ornate hand-made book that described all of their specialty gin drinks; back out on the street well after midnight as the lynchian door softly closed behind us, a mesmerizing moment in front of the glazing machine at krispy kreme as G and his wife insisted we load up on a dozen. How much do I need to pay to lie down on the conveyer belt, I asked the counter person, who, somehow, had heard it all before. The bodega had the henry weinhard’s we had grown up drinking right around the time of the tomato soup ramen, so as we cracked them and started eating the krispy kremes, a combination I knew would lead to a really really bad situation about an hour hence, I brought it up.
Last spring, I just looked at him as my ramen was served, and he looked around the table for something to throw, then regained control of himself. A sad moment, yes, for him one reason, for me another. As I cracked my neck slowly, thug style, he gave me the kubrick brow-frow: head down, eyes up, mr. menace. All of his history, his talent, his accomplishment, his potential, his writing, his reading, his wit, his heart and its rancor were brought to bear upon that space between his side of the table and mine.
And all I could think of was how pathetic he was in the kitchen.