We went to the diner on our first date. Or maybe it wasn’t a date. We were hanging out, going over lines for a community theater production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream we were both in. It was one of those build-on, customizable dates, or non-dates, where you keep adding to as it goes well. Rehearsing lines became coffee became going to hear a band became more coffee became going out to breakfast at 3 a.m. We spent time one-on-one, deep in conversation and in groups, near each other, but not touching, arousing the suspicion of our friends.
The diner was an old train car with a space-age, art deco feel. The wall curved where it met the ceiling and the surfaces were shiny metal, or pink laminate. I ordered a spinach and feta omelet, hash browns, rye toast, and decaf. He ordered a spinach and feta omelet, hash browns, wheat toast, and regular coffee. We held hands over the table and talked about how much we had in common.
The lasagna was nothing special. I used generic noodles, store brand sauce, part-skim cheeses. I didn’t even use fresh parmesan, but that stuff from a can. The recipe came off the back of the box of pasta. My one special touch was to switch out the ground beef it called for with sweet Italian sausage and add a little basil to the sauce. I cut the sausage out of the casings before I sautéed them, then drained them while I assembled. I added a little extra water to the baking dish and didn’t bother to parboil the noodles. Then I sat around for an hour while it baked.
This dish required some effort, and seemed special, but really, the hardest part was doing the dishes. He raved over it. Raved more than I thought it deserved, to the point that it made me uncomfortable.
We had sex for the first time after I made that meal. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was sitting around for an hour while the food stupor wore off. Maybe it was just the fact we had been texting and talking, getting coffee and kissing in cars and movie theaters like ninth graders for nearly three months up until that point. After, he went outside for a cigarette, but he brought his phone with him. I could hear him talking, fast and sharp as a knife in a sushi bar. He said it was his friend Dan.
The magazine article said that this chicken could be used to take relationships to the next step, whatever that step may be. The women quoted had gotten their boyfriends to propose with the help of that chicken. Others had had boyfriends move in. Somehow, this meal caused men to open their eyes to the warmth, stability and hominess offered by the woman cooking it. The chicken was the gateway drug to commitment. I wanted it to lead to declaration of some sort, an end to limbo. I wanted the chicken to be the conversation I wasn’t willing to have.
I had also read a little about witchcraft, paganism, natural magic, the secret language of spices. I wasn’t dying my hair black and wearing robes, but I wasn’t above using an appropriate herb to align my desires with the Universe’s will—if it harm none. Along with the traditional lemon and garlic, I added cinnamon for masculine energy, rubbing the skin with a tiny bit in the butter. Thyme, ruled by Venus. A little cayenne for heat in all areas. I plugged in my hot rollers and showered while the chicken roasted.
At six, I was ready for him to walk in the door. At seven I was no longer worried, but annoyed. I texted him and heard nothing. I sat, in full, but natural, makeup, until nine o’clock while the chicken congealed. The fat solidified around the edges of the pan and the skin went from crisp and delicious to limp.
He never ate a bite of that chicken. He had one of those days where you think it’s Thursday all day, but it’s really Wednesday. He totally forgot. Can we reschedule? Can he make it up to me?READ MORE