“The first time you hear their screams is always the hardest,” she told me. “Or so I’ve heard. None of mine have ever screamed. But, if it happens to you, don’t let it get to you; it’s just the air releasing from the inside the bugs.”
“Quit calling them ‘bugs’, Jenny,” I said. “Or I won’t be able to enjoy the linguine.”
She shrugged. “It’s all the same to me – you’re the one who wanted my recipe.”
I scowled. She was right; Valentine’s Day was coming, and I’d wanted a special dish to present to Jorge.
“You’re going all out – serving lobster and everything. Are you anticipating something special?” Jenny tapped her wedding ring meaningfully.
“I dunno,” I admitted. I put my head down and doodled a lobster claw in my notebook. Jorge and I had been dating for two years. I’d started hinting at engagement after our six month anniversary, which had changed the dynamics of our relationship into a bizarre game consisting of me, dropping hints about marriage and him dancing his way around them.
He was good looking, and good company, so I’d tolerated the dancing. But, I was growing tired of calendar dates – pregnant with romantic possibility – coming and going without him asking that one question which would propel our relationship to the next level. I’d determined this Valentine’s Day would be the last I would endure this romantic purgatory. No question this year would mean the end of Jorge’s dancing.
I didn’t want to tell Jenny any of that, so I brought the subject back to linguine.
“Let’s say I’ve got them cooked – survived the screaming, and everything. What then?”
“Okay, so, I forgot to tell you. You need to get some Old bay seasoning and toss it in the water with the bugs. It’s sold in the supermarket, next to the garlic and basil and stuff.”
I made a note about the Old Bay and nodded.
“So, okay, you’ve got them cooked. Clean and shell ’em, then it’s time to make the pasta.”
Jenny droned on for several minutes and I dutifully made my notations as I simultaneously recalled the many dances of Jorge. I thought about the two weddings we’d attended together, crying while he shifted uncomfortably in the pew next to me. I remembered two lovely but perfunctory dinners – rushed through so we wouldn’t miss opening kick-offs. I recalled other occasions of disappointment, unrelated to the question of engagement – moments when I’d felt un-important.
I wasn’t angry, I realized, rather stunned by this discovery. The more I considered, the more I understood – I’d quit caring enough to be hurt by Jorge’s careless missteps some weeks ago. Question or no question, I was ready to make this my last supper with Jorge.
“And that’s all there is to it,” Jenny said, “I hope I’ve been helpful.”
“You’ve been super-helpful, Jenny,” I replied, closing my notebook, “I know exactly what to do, now.”