Ritual

rice

I’m already awake by the time the clock beside me trills it’s piercing alarm. I dispatch it quickly, deftly, begrudgingly, and officially stir. My girlfriend is beside me in my bed, a bed slightly too small for the two of us. She is visiting. The brief eruption of sound failed to wake her and I’m certainly not going to offer my assistance to its poorly executed plight. Outside is a world that has been awake for hours already, the ruckus below the window having woken me initially, preemptively. The curtains are thick and the room is unnaturally dark. It confuses my body and, on some level, my mind. I shouldn’t be awake yet, it tells me, the alarm made a mistake, it assures me. My body isn’t as tired as it feels but I’m too lethargic to argue with my instincts. All it would take is for me to let the sunlight I know to be outside in and I would be refreshed and alert.

I’m still futilely trying to convince myself it’s morning when my phone vibrates angrily against my desk. Still not wishing to wake my girlfriend I slide quickly out from under the duvet and immediately regret it, cringing at the cold, nearly letting myself slip straight back into bed. It takes all of my resolve to walk over to the desk as imperceptible changes – to anyone but me, that is – occur over my body as I embrace this new atmosphere. My bladder becomes more insistent, my nipples harden and my scrotum shrivels slightly.

It’s Beech. Despite the caller ID telling me who it is I still answer it with a quizzical “Hello?” He asks if I want to meet up for breakfast before class. As he’s telling me of his desire for greasy eggs and a messy heap of red bacon my fingers are playing with the edge of the curtain. The puzzle pieces of my brain are slowly sliding into place but I’m not sure if I’m ready to embrace the day just yet. I brush him off politely, tell him I’m not nearly ready enough to leave the room let alone the building, and hang up.

I walk into the bathroom and flick on the light without considering the consequences. There’s a few seconds of darkness, trickery on its part, and expectantly I look at it – of course – before it bursts into life all at once, no flicker, a strip of florescent fire burning from the ceiling straight into my retinas. I’m blinded for a few seconds before I blink the spots away and manage to focus on the bowl in front of me. I relieve myself, my free hand against the wall in front of me, steadying myself as I sway slightly. I wash up quickly and walk back into the dark room, snatching the pyjama pants from the end of the bed on my way past it and slip into them before opening the front door into the hall.

The doors to my flatmates rooms are all closed, meaning everyone is either asleep or out. The kitchen is immaculate, which means the former is the most likely scenario. We got in late yesterday, falling through the door in a lump of limbs and laughter. The party was briefly maintained in the narrow hall until we all stumbled into our (mostly) respective rooms and collapsed into our beds. I saunter into the kitchen and turn on the hob to make breakfast.

My recipe for sticky rice:

  • Take the pan of Nishiki rice you left to soak overnight (I should mention here that every time I stumble in drunk I somehow manage to have enough foresight and, more incredulously, dexterity to leave a bowl of rice soaking on the side. I don’t really know how I do it, but every morning that I wake up hung over it’s there waiting, in my pan.)
  • Place the rice on high heat and pour some salt in. Three teaspoons is the advised dosage, but I simply upend a Saxo salt pot through the grill opening for about two seconds.
  • Wait for bubbles. Turn down heat.
  • Wait for fifteen minutes and then remove from hob.
  • wait for ten minutes before lifting lid, serving, and consuming.

I’m half way through step four, waiting impatiently for the water level to lower and wasting the time away testing how adhesive the linoleum beneath my feet is when Becky walks in. She’s wearing a long t-shirt with a band’s name – Trippple Nippple – emblazoned across it that I swear I’ve seen Daniel in before. I pretend not to notice this.

“Rice?” she simply asks, glancing at the pot on the side, unable to make the contents out through the bubbles and steam. It’s that much of a ritual. The amount of rice I’ve left out for myself has grown larger over the year. You’ll see why soon.

“Yep.” I say simply. She grunts her approval and reaches up towards the top of the cupboard, towards the medical box. The shirt lifts, higher and higher. As she finally reaches the tips of her toes – I can’t help but notice her feet are reluctant to unstick themselves from the floor as well – a sliver of her white panties beneath are revealed, and the soft curves of her buttocks are exposed. I look quickly, enough to satiate my curiosity but not so much as to give myself away as a perverse roommate. Does it make me a perverse roommate? I’m still pondering this when she asks me a question, snapping me from my internal monologue about the impossible nature of ignoring such a sight.

“Can I have some?”

“Sure,” I say, lifting my eyes from the floor to which they fell, as they often do when exploring such deep themes, to look at her again. Her feet are firmly planted on the floor once more, the shirt safely back in place, decency once again hidden. She’s holding a box of paracetamol, popping two from the foil pack and  gulping them down without the aid of water. I’m impressed.

A couple of minutes later and I’m eagerly preparing three bowls, waiting for step five to finish. I’ve taken them from the rank of dirty dishes and am currently washing it under a cold faucet with my hands, picking off anything particularly stubborn with my nails. No one in this house really washes anything unless they need it presently. One time Susanne, a short, mousey girl with a pretty face covered in messy hair, had a mini-breakdown and woke up at two in the morning, haunted by the state of our kitchen, and washed and dried everything in the rack. By the time the rest of us had woken up she’d moved on to the area in general, wiping down surfaces, cleaning the insides of cupboards, even going as far as to wash the entire floor. It was kind of scary. She was muttering to herself as we watched and waited to be allowed entrance, to defile it all over again, none of us offering to help in fear of a backlash, content to starve quietly from the sidelines.

Becky’s waiting by the microwave, watching the little green LED numbers tick down to zero as she hums an impatient tune. She opens it as soon as its done, allowing only a single beep (of four) to ring out in the silence before she cuts it off. Behind the door is a bowl of simmering curry sauce, a Wal-Mart korma that came from a pouch rather than a jar. I distribute an even amount of rice into the bowls, one large sticky blob for each of us, and leave the huge quantity remaining for the rest of the flat to divvy up amongst themselves. Becky jabs at hers with a fork, splitting it up, and then pours the curry sauce over it.

“Want some?” she asks, but I shake my hand no. I can’t be dealing with that kind of start to the day. Some people depend on it. I stick a pair of chopsticks in both of the remaining bowls – pretentious, perhaps – pour a bit of extra salt over them and then carry them back to the room. I open the door with my elbow and close it with my foot, placing her bowl in front of her nose, where I used to be lying. Within a few seconds she’s mumbling, sniffing.

“Mmmm,” she reaches, blind, for the chopsticks she knows to be there, and – still with eyes unopened – begins to move it from the bowl to her mouth.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:
This is the first part of a new major-series called ‘The Journey’. Make of it what you will.

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~ by Joseph Blame on August 2, 2010.

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