Pasta Touching Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D) by Nam Hoang Tran
The second worst thing after being served awful food is when said awful food touches your hand while dishwashing. A horror within the same category as getting defecated on by a bird. Whereas with bird shit you could wash off and move on, the moment wet food residue grazes your epidermis, it's game over. Events which transpired in a matter of seconds has left your spirit tarnished for the rest of eternity. And no amount of weekly therapy or Bible study will even come close to undoing the trauma.
I faced such a misfortune while visiting my friend Giovanni, who lived alone in a five-bedroom house after getting dumped by a woman he now refers to as “That Bitch.” Giovanni answered the door in plaid sweatpants and a Ralph Lauren top which hung tightly to his overweight body. Upon closer inspection, I realised the little polo man was not a man at all, but a stain from some sort of condiment. Giovanni had gained a significant amount of weight and it took my brain awhile to register who I was looking at.
“Geo! How are you?”
“Much better since That Bitch left!”
“Tell me about it.”
Not long after my remark was made did the absurdity of it hit me. Having never met this woman, how was I to know whether her absence improved or worsened my quality of life? I began shrivelling up like a child discovering his beloved piece of fried chicken was actually batter dipped zucchini in disguise. Giovanni sensed my uneasiness and suggested we continue this conversation inside, where he called the “judgement-free zone.”
“Doesn’t living alone worry you?” I asked. “What if a murderer breaks in?”
“The beauty of a grand abode is that it requires actual work to navigate. And it’s a matter of time before he gives up altogether.”
He likened the scenario to a game of hide-and-seek, except the person seeking is probably carrying a sharp object capable of inflicting bodily harm. Giovanni insisted the search would deplete the murderer’s energy, leaving him unable to commit acts of malice. Instead, he’ll thank Giovanni for the excellent workout and suggest they discuss current events over a beer. The murderer will lament rising gas prices while Giovanni concurs they are, in fact, rather high. Discourse will shift towards personal matters as both parties reveal pieces of themselves. By morning, they were practically best friends.
“Do you consider us close, Geo?” I asked.
“At one point, yes. However, our friendship deteriorated once I started seeing That Bitch and you moved away for work. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m afraid the distance might have cemented it’s damage.”
“Is there anything I could do?”
Giovanni stroked his beard before gesturing towards unwashed dishes fanned out across the counter like magazines at a doctor’s office.
“Well . . . there is one th—”
“On it!” I replied.
Dishes were gathered, sponges were moistened, and a hefty amount of Dawn was whisked with utmost care into a warm water bath before plate submersion. All would go smoothly, or so it seemed. The moment my hand sank into that sudsy water, something felt off.
“Oh. No,” I thought. “No. No. No.”
Just as I suspected, right there attached to my pinkie knuckle was a half-eaten piece of elbow macaroni. Instead of losing it, I did my best to assess the situation in a thoughtful manner, even though a part of me broke inside. My thought process was this: Did I want to be touched? No. Was there consent? No. Did it happen anyway? Yes! This meant ONE thing; I had been assaulted! Although I wanted to scream, my distress call was kept to a minimum as to not place any further strain on poor Giovanni. With the piece of macaroni still stuck to my hand, I lifted it into the air like Rafiki did Simba in the Lion King.
“Jesus. Christ,” Giovanni said.
“Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!”
Giovanni scrammed into the kitchen, plucking the carb from my skin using a pair of wooden tongs he got from the drying rack. We began contemplating a plan of action while staring at the soggy noodle atop the Bounty paper towel.
“What the hell do we do?” I asked.
“There’s only one thing we can do,” Giovanni said, motioning me to come near as he whispered. “Police. Report.”
That was genius! So fortunate was I to have a quick-witted comrade at my aid during times of crisis. Giovanni positioned the macaroni with his tongs while I snapped away, making sure I got every angle of the little sucker. Photos of my assaulted hand were also taken and a red circle identified where I had been struck by the attacker.
“You might have tainted my well-being, but one thing you can’t escape is the justice system, bitch!”
As I was trash talking the elbow macaroni, Giovanni placed his hand in front of my phone camera. With law enforcement involved, he insisted we must consider every possible scenario which might unfurl. The more I thought about it, the more I realised Giovanni was right. Were handcuffs to be used, they would slip off. And even if they threw him in the slammer, sliding between the bars would be a breeze. Thus, there was only one other solution: the garbage disposal.
Giovanni grabbed the macaroni, pulling with it shreds of paper towel. This gave the pasta little grey hairs meaning it was ageing and would probably die soon. Knowing this invigorated me to the core. On three, Giovanni flung the bastard into the sinkhole while I dove for the switch like a Serengeti wildcat. With the whirl of metallic blades providing background music, we nodded at one another to commemorate overcoming this ordeal as a team. This surely had to mean something, I thought.
“Fresh start, what do you say?”
“Not so fast, buckaroo,” Giovanni chuckled. “Those dishes aren’t going to wash themselves you know?”
Nam Hoang Tran is a writer living in Orlando, FL. His work appears or is forthcoming in The Daily Drunk, Star 82 Review, Bending Genres, (mac)ro(mic), Rejection Letters, and elsewhere. Find him online at www.namhtran.com