Thursday, 9 April 2015

Spaghetti Night

I was watching a pan of spaghetti boil one evening pondering Haruki Murakami's liking for these pale golden strands of durum wheat when there was an almighty thump on the ceiling. Those bloody kids! I grumbled, why can't their parents get them to play quietly? Is it too much to ask? No consideration! The same goes for those who run their washing machines late at night, bang windows and doors, or naturally have heavy footfalls. The joys of communal living. Twenty-first century flat dwelling.
My complaints were something of a monologue that mirthless evening. A speech I made where I was the speaker and the audience. Reclusive people do like to talk to themselves. Reason and rant, hold debates with themselves and fictional interviewers, or bite back at live TV and radio presenters. They have a burning need to rationalise their opinions even if the words they speak will only be heard by their own ears.
Believe me, it can be quite exhausting. A distraction to pass dark winter or long summer evenings. One thought leads to another, which can either be like an invigorating morning hike or a gentle promenade after dinner.
As the cooking water frothed, my thoughts belly-flopped to wondering when my threshold for background noise had become so low. Too sensitive to sensory information that's your trouble, I told myself, as really these flats are well insulated. You rarely hear other people's televisions or stereos. Hmm, but that's just luck, I ventured back to my opponent.
That's how it goes, this game of tennis. One voice mutters a view and the other volleys back a reply. Sometimes I refuse to start play altogether. Play is rained off , the court covered over until I feel like reasoning or ranting aloud.
I much prefer playing tennis to chess. Squash is too violent! And ten pin bowling is only for when you want to smash fanciful, largely impractical ideas; give yourself a good talking to and bring yourself down from a sea of clouds. Sometimes dreams are just dreams, a pearl you'll never see emerge from an oyster. Not all dreams are meant to materialise, the pearl is not the prize, it's the anticipation. Actually living the dream is rarely the same as it is in your imagination.
Tennis is all bravado and banter. Ten pin bowling is grounding. Chess is intellectually agonising. Deceitfully strategic. A game drags on forever and no side is ever completely satisfied with the outcome. It's militant: new thoughts ambush you after a lengthy pause and so the internal debate simmers, then rages. It doesn't care if it takes you prisoner and subjects you to inhospitable conditions. A whirlpool mind, a churning stomach, insomnia.
All these mind games have a way of filling in, killing time. Immersing you in a place when time carries no weight, no meaning.
And somehow play always commences on a spaghetti night. I forget to pay attention, leaving the spaghetti to its own devices. A habit-formed meditation. My mind drifts, but my eyes observe the straw-like strands soften and slither into the pan. The water bubbles furiously... Until I suddenly realise that I haven't once stirred to prevent sticking. I grab a fork and swish the rubbery spaghetti in the steamy water. Nowhere near al dente and I just caught some clumping. A lucky save! Don't you just hate eating lumps of gluey pasta? Four minutes more and it will transform into pale, soft strings to be sucked up with a satisfying slurp or looped round the prongs of a fork. Add a little oil, lemon and black pepper, and some jazz, and there you have it, your own Murakami dining experience.
How far can you go in bringing an author's art to your real life?
Because you see, I fully expect to receive a mysterious telephone call from a woman with very neat ears to ruin my spaghetti night.