BY HOPE ARLEN
Copyright is held by the author.
MY MOM took me to see Lady and the Tramp when I was six. It apparently left an impression on me, because I’ve tried to recreate the spaghetti scene with varying success over the course of many relationships.
The first time I suggested it to a date was on a first (and only) date, and I should have learned my lesson. Not only did I ignore my mother’s advice not to eat pasta on a first date (It’s too easy to get spaghetti sauce stains on your shirt), but I insisted that it would be a way to remember a first date (Bad first impressions apparently still make dates memorable). John reluctantly put a piece of my angel hair pasta in his mouth as I tried to put the other end in mine. The fragile strand split instantly, the longer end on his side, swinging back towards his right cheek and sticking there. He grimly removed the strand with fingers poised like tweezers over a worm, barely wanting to touch the slimy thing for fear it would further disintegrate. That date ended without dessert or a chance at a second date.
The next time, I waited for a few dates with Henry before I ordered bucatini. The long, thick pasta with the hole in the middle would hold up substantially better than angel hair. (Plus, I thought buca is Italian for mouth.) When I felt the moment was right, I offered the end of one long pasta to my date and placed the other end in my mouth. He misunderstood my intentions and used the pasta like a straw, blowing through the tube, and pushing spaghetti sauce past my lips to the back of my throat. Sputtering, gagging, and spitting weren’t on my list of how to create romance. I had to excuse myself to the ladies’ room and spent about 20 minutes gargling tomatoes, garlic, parsley, and bits of pasta out of my mouth. When I returned to the table, Henry was gone, but the check was still there. (I later learned buca is Italian for hole.)
I didn’t risk the movie scene recreation again until I started dating Antonio. Surely my relationship with my Italian-American boyfriend would strengthen over a sentimental strand of spaghetti. Rather than risk public humiliation, I recreated the pasta dish and the table setting from the movie in my own apartment. (Though my apartment was already well-furnished, I managed to procure a small round table and covered it with a white and red checked tablecloth, an old chianti bottle dripping with melted wax, and a ceramic jar full of bread sticks.) I purposely served an uneven number of meatballs, so my date would offer the last ball to me just like Tramp did to Lady. He didn’t. He ate it himself. Didn’t even ask me if I wanted it first, just jabbed his fork into the meaty orb and popped the whole thing in his mouth. I was so distraught that I forgot to ask him to share a spaghetti strand with me; he’d ruined the evening. I pouted through the rest of the meal and every meal we had after that (I couldn’t get that selfish act out of my head.) We stopped dating shortly after that.
Not one to doubt the possibility of pasta and passion, I gave it one last try with Stewart. Determined to get it right this time, I rented Lady and the Tramp, and right before the big scene, I paused the movie and told Stewart I was going to get us a snack. I came back into the room with a big bowl of steaming spaghetti in red sauce (with no utensils, of course) and clicked the film back on. I mimicked the action on the screen as it was happening, playing the role of Tramp and putting my face into the bowl to slurp up some pasta. Ignoring the tiny splashes of playful pasta sauce on my face, I put a strand of spaghetti into my mouth, and I encouraged Stewart to do the same with its other end. In return I received a side eye and a retort, “It’s a cartoon, Sandy.” I let the pasta slip from my fingers and dangle from my astonished gape. (I’m not sure that helped with the ambiance.) I sucked the remains of the strand into my mouth and threw the almost full bowl of pasta at the nearest wall. Though that got me a full-on stare from Stewart, it was the last one I ever got from him.
I stopped dating after that. There isn’t anyone quixotic enough for me out there; no one gets the sheer joy of shared spaghetti but a true romantic. I got a dog instead, a mutt that looks like Tramp. (I named him Tramp.) I taught him how to eat a single strand of spaghetti (which took about seven months of training.) My mom never got to meet him; she passed about a year ago. That’s why I’m sitting at her graveside with Tramp, pulling a baggie of pasta in red sauce and a white and red checked tablecloth out of my tote bag, placing them on Mom’s resting place, and sharing one simple strand of spaghetti with my favourite guy to show my mom I’ve found romance.
Formerly from New Jersey, transplanted to Arizona, Hope Arlen is a former English teacher and school librarian who is currently on the other side of books. She enjoys writing Flash fiction, has a novel-in-the-making (who doesn’t), and is a student at The Writers Studio. Reach her on Twitter @HopeArlen1