This is what you do. This is what you do when you've screwed up and it has cost you a job interview for a job you kind of really wanted; a job interview you thought you had. This is what you do. You don't go home. You're already home. You lay down on the couch, even though its only 3 in the afternoon. You wallow. You talk to a friend. You talk to your sister. You wallow. Throw the ball for the cat to chase. Wallow. You do not proofread that chapter that needs to be proofread. It needs some time to sit anyway. The client can wait. You do not answer that important email, you do not make that important call. No, not today. Not today when you are feeling too un-moored and paper thin. You read Jezebel. You read the Hairpin and Slate and i09. You watch Modern Warfare, because it is your favorite episode of Community, ever. You wallow. And suddenly it is 7:30 p.m. and you are starving and there is little-to-no food with nutritional value in your house. This is what you do. You take out the butter with flecks of crumbs in it from all the toast you have been eating. You pull out the pecorino because you don't have any parmesan. There is still a little bit of pasta left in its bin. If you were doing this right it would be spaghetti. It's not spaghetti, but that's just fine. That's all you need. Pasta, butter, cheese and the black pepper grinder sitting on its shelf. Vitamins and minerals are overrated.
This is what you do. You put the water up to boil. You add salt, as much salt as you think you can bear, so that it tastes like the sea. That is the key. You pour in the pasta and wait. You put a warm beer into the freezer so it will be cold. You pull out a piece of pasta. You burn your fingers a bit. That's ok. The pasta is not quite al-dante, there's still a dense, starchy bite to it.You pull out some of the cooking water with a mug and set it aside. Watch the steam curl up into the air as you drain the pasta. Now is the time for the butter- a good pat of it- into the pot that is back on the stove, the flame low and steady. The pasta goes back in, the cheese curls over it and a melts. You pour in some reserved pasta water- just a bit. You let it cook and mingle and smooth out, so that when you look down you see that your pasta is glazed in a sheen of something that once was just butter, cheese and water and now is something much more than the sum of its parts. You turn off the heat. You grind some black pepper, a lot of it, over the pot and this part will never not remind you of your friend in high school who lived with your family and who used to put black pepper on her pasta. For years you wrinkled your nose at her, but you were wrong. So wrong. Black pepper on pasta is where its at. The Italians knew that years ago. (They have a name for it cacio e pepe and you love the way it sounds on your tongue.) So did Adena. It's you who was behind the times.
You eat your pasta. You drink your beer. You wallow. You talk to a friend. You read someone else's writing. Tomorrow. Tomorrow you'll get up. You'll make that phone call, you'll write that email. Or maybe not tomorrow. Maybe Sunday, or Monday. It will get done. But not today. Today this is what you do.