Spaghetti For Barbara

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on June 9, 2012 0 Comments


I hate shopping and that isn’t accurate , really, what I hate is navigating people so I can shop. It’s not like I expect the world to get out of my way or anything like that, but I would really like for people not to get in my way for no good reason at all. I do realize I am infected with the hurry virus and I really, really, ought to get away from it, but the time I spend behind people with no sense of direction or time bothers me. They’re stagnant water wearing clothes and occupying space. That’s harsh, I’ll admit it, but when I’m trying to get from Point A to Point B I don’t think it’s too much to ask for people not to obstruct in the name of indecision or thoughtlessness.


There’s a helpful hint I can give you for traffic; if you see someone in a vehicle suddenly point then there is a better than average chance the person driving that vehicle will go in that direction. If you’re on a four lane street pulling alongside this vehicle, prepare to dodge. I was heading to the store yesterday and a woman pointed, I braked, and sure enough, the man driving the car changes lanes and looks back at me in the middle of the change. Oh hai. Seeing he could have hit me he then swerved back into the other lane. It’s all good, man, I know what you’re going to do before you do. Just keep darting back and forth in front of me, I have all day, really, and you’re amusing.



There are restaurants that have “Children Free” nights and I wonder if I could talk a grocery store into doing that one day a week. I feel sorry for one woman who has three kids, all of them under the age of five with her, but at the same time, I mean, damn. One of the kids is wailing and that’s my cue to run away. There is something about a kid wail that just gets under the skin, bones, soul, and feels like a little piece of hell has lodged in the ear. Worse, I can still hear the kid from across the store. Other shoppers are fleeing also and it’s like someone dropped a cat in a room full of mice. The frozen food aisle is jammed with refugees. We use bags of tator tots to block off the ends of this section and vow to die rather than to come out before the kid graduates from High School. The reports from the Kool-Aid division are not pretty.


The older people do not bother me nearly as bad. There is an elderly man over by the spices and he’s trying to put something together. He has a list, but he doesn’t seem to understand what he’s looking for. I’m curious as to what he’s up to, and I sneak a peek at the list. Ah, Spaghetti! That’s my specialty! I ask him if I can help him and he’s looking for Bay leaves and doesn’t understand what they are. I tell him they are supposed to be whole leaves and just toss one or two in and it kicks in a little flavor. He’s happy with that, and I tell him to try using a little crushed red pepper, just a little, but he doesn’t like spicy hot at all.


“I never cooked before, well, nothing good.” The man says and he looks away after he tells me this and I know he’s lost someone.





I try to explain oregano to him, and tell him to write down what he put in it the first time, and try something different until he finds some combination he really likes. I tell him that minced garlic is okay, but real spaghetti has thinly sliced garlic in it that has been roasted in olive oil. He writes all of this down, and he seems genuinely happy to be sharing spaghetti secrets with me. I know it’s coming and I hope it isn’t too bad and finally he tells me they were married for nearly fifty years. Three months shy of fifty and she died of the flu. Barbara, my Barbara, they wouldn’t let me stay with her because they thought I would catch it too and she died while I was sitting outside of her room. I bite my lower lip and he starts looking at the spices again. I tell him we need to go get some garlic and he allows me to lead him over to where the produce is. He used to shop with her, he says, but he never paid any attention to what she was getting or what she was getting it, he just tagged along at her elbow, half listening to her chatter away about the prices or answering questions to what he liked or what the doctor said they had to eat more of, or less of, and then one day he’s talking to a stranger about garlic. Where did the time go? Where is Barbara now?



I want to tell him Barbara is with Bert, and Bert will take care of her, but I have no idea where Bert is, really. I’d like to think pleasant thoughts like this, but none of us know, truly know, what happens after death. I tell him to shop with a cart, not a basket, because sometimes they have sale items and he needs to load up on those things. He tells me Barbara used to say that, but he didn’t like lugging around all the grape juice when it was on sale. He doesn’t like it but Barbara did.



I watch him head out to his car, with the service guy carrying his bags for him, and he’s talking to that kid like they’ve known each other for a while. I’ve lost touch with my irritation at people for the moment and totally forgotten about the wailing kid. He drives well, pulling out quickly and cleanly, and then he is gone. I hope the spaghetti comes out okay. I hope Barbara is all right.


Take Care,


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