I step out of my car, tired from the long day of work at the office, and walk to the elevator of my building. My heels tap the tiles. I jam my thumb into the “up” button of the elevator. The door quietly slides open and the usual ding, coming from the side of the wall, tells me to walk in. I press floor 22 and lean on the side wall. I wait for the elevator to finish its job, then slowly walk down the black tiles of the hallway, fumbling for my keys in my purse. Instead, I find my vibrating cell phone. Jen’s calling.
This oughtta be good! I think, sighing. No doubt it’s about her weekly boyfriend troubles. I answer, “Hey, Jen.”
“Oh, God! It’s absolutely terrible this time, Stacey!” her voice cracks over the phone.
“What is it this time, Jen?”
“Tom, Tom dumped me for this new girl he cheated on with me! But get this-she’s a supermodel! A Russian supermodel! How do I compete with that? I have to get him back! Help me! Help me!”
“Okay. This is what I’m thinking. I go to Russia, where they are currently staying, and try to win him back! Should I do that?”
“Yes,” I quietly cure my yes syndrome, a disease which only enables me to answer yes when I’m asked questions.
“Or I can call him or send him a long email, explaining my feelings towards him. Maybe Tom’ll like that better. I don’t want to seem too clingy, ya know?”
“Yes,” I sigh as I open the door to my apartment. If only she could go on Match.com already and forget about Tom! How many times does she need to get through to her that he is only using her for a place to stay and some quick cash. Oh, she’ll never learn!
I trudge to my room and kick off my heels, slipping my feet into tethered sandals. I walk towards the kitchen and tap my fingernails on the granite countertop. I search through the refrigerator and pantry for some inspiration to cook for tonight’s dinner.
“Okay, great! I’m going to get and keep Tom once and for all! But, umm, well, I don’t have enough money to get a plane ticket to Russia,” she says. “I kinda gave Tom most of my money in a loan, so I was wondering if I could borrow a couple hundred dollars.”
“Yes, you can!” Oh, why did I say that? She better pay me back!
“I am so excited, girl! I owe you! I owe you so much!”
Oh, you owe me more than much, I think. I huff and smooth a piece of curled, brown hair behind my ear, moving my thoughts onto dinner. Hmmm… should I go for Mom’s mac-and-cheese or Dad’s lasagna? Maybe lasagna. Dad always said drowning your troubles in five-cheese-covered pasta with Italian tomato sauce always did the trick. Well, that was Dad. He basically loved anything his potbelly could handle.
“So, Stacey, can you drop off the money at my place tomorrow?” she droned on. “I’m going to go shopping for the best outfit I can find! It’ll definitely make him reconsider!”
“Of course! Anything to get you two back together,” I said in the cheeriest voice I could manage. But I secretly wanted to smack the crazy out of her. Was she kidding? Did I really have to take time out of my day – and money out of my bank account – to help Jen with her unfixable love problems? Apparently, though, I did.
“So, I’m going to stay at this famous hotel in Russia and-”
At this point, I can’t take it anymore. I tune out her plans and tend to my lasagna. I grab pots and a glass pan to make it in. Of course, I have to cook Dad’s homemade secret sauce and boil the pasta the exact same way he does. I continue cooking. Aromas are floating lazily around the kitchen now, and I promise I could open my own restaurant with the skills Dad has taught me!
“Isn’t it a great idea?” Jen exclaims over the phone, dragging me back from my lasagna fantasies. “Oh, I can’t wait to get him back!”
“Yep, just great!” I say, weary of having to continue this conversation.
She senses my disinterest, answering, “I’m guessing you’re in a sour mood. I thought you liked helping me with my troubles. You never seemed to mind until tonight! Are you mad at me?”
“Yes.” I slide my tray into the oven to bake. Why can’t she realize that I’m mad because she asked me to loan her a couple hundred dollars to go to Russia and drop it off at her house during my own time? Clueless is what she is! Clueless!
“Wow, I didn’t know you felt that way.” Her voice quavers over the phone. I imagine tears trickling down her chin like raindrops on a car window, just like when Tom has cheated on another girl and I am comforting her.
Oh, dear! Jen is going into tsunami tears mode! What to do? What to do?
“I just can’t believe this!” she cries. “After all we’ve been through! Pre-K through senior year! Girl scouts! The trip to Orlando in my parent’s RV! So many sleepovers! Mall days! I have dedicated so much to our friendship! Just as much as I did with Tom!”
Oh, brother. Ding! Oh! My lasagna is ready. Can’t wait for a bite of that five-star goodness! I open the oven and the smell of melted cheese clears my mind of Jen. I grab a knife from the drawer and slice the lasagna. I spoon it onto my plate and stab my fork into it.
“Do you even care about me?” she whimpers.
“But you obviously don’t care enough to help me out?”
“What?” she exclaims. I can hear the sound of glass shattering over the phone. “Well, then! We don’t have to be friends anymore! I’ll go to someone who truly cares about me! Like my mom! I guess you like that! Don’t you?”
“Good bye, Stacey!” She hangs up, and I am left with my lasagna. Maybe it’s better this way. I purse my lips, and take a few bites. Now, what do I need to improve on with this lasagna? I take another bite. Maybe just a little less sauce next time.