September 23, 2021 by The Citron Review
by Sam Simon
When there were four of us crammed in that apartment, I lived only in my room. Twenty, twenty-two hours a day I sat first at my desk browsing the recipe book I never dared to use, then later staring at the ticking wall clock from my bed, the soft sheets too inviting to stay away from. As the day wore on, I slouched further down until I lay flat, still until morning.
I spent time in the common area to shower or prepare a meal. My roommates smoked hand-rolled cigarettes around the living room’s circular table, taking turns using the kitchen’s two burners. There was an unspoken rotation dictated by house seniority, and as I had moved in a month before, I was last in line. When the clanging of pots and plates died down, I scurried to my cupboard and lay ingredients atop the counter before hurrying through the preparations, retreating to my den to eat only after washing and cleaning our collective mess.
One morning, as I lay in bed listening for my turn, I was struck by the silence. No cabinets were shut, no clicks came from the stove as gas awaited a flame, and no water screeched through pipes when the toilet flushed or the shower ran. I floated through the apartment wondering if perhaps the previous night they had stayed up late drinking, but I didn’t complain about having the first rush of hot water for once, the run of the kitchen sans oil stains and shredded onion paper. I pulled down my recipe book and flipped through its glossy pages, stopping at a yellow Post-it placed long before I moved to that apartment with the bay windows and narrow hallway, the interior balcony where flustered pigeons scattered shit.
The recipe called for two cups of flour and four egg yolks, but I didn’t have a measuring cup, and even if I did it would have been in grams, which would have been useless because my roommate was no longer there to pay the internet bill so I couldn’t check the conversion. The instructions recommended an ample workspace and I swept away loose tobacco from the table and gave it a good washing before allowing it time to dry. I dumped flour and formed a volcano for the cracked eggs whose temperature surprised me, the cool slime slipping between my fingers as I separated the whites from the yolks.
I pierced and whipped them into yellow lava then folded in the walls as white specks filled the cracked and dappled tabletop, forming a gelatinous ball that I kneaded until my hands pulsated and an imprint of my thumb held stiff. Flour had spilled onto the floor but before I bent to sweep it, I realized there was nobody to complain if I left it until after dinner, or the next morning, the next week. I rolled and stretched the dough, careful not to puncture it, forming one long sheet that even after it covered the table was still too thick. I exhaled with a whoop in mock exhaustion, then craned my neck to the hallway, unsure if I expected a response. I whooped a second time, but nothing called back.
I was getting hungry by the time the mopped floor dried. The rolling pin smoothed the golden sheet over the hardwood, stretched it into the hall. It was dark when I reached my bedroom door, the electricity having been cut off not long after the sunlight faded behind the adjacent apartment building. I was starving and with good reason, but when I tried to light the stove to boil water, no gas escaped. Still, I returned to crawling along the glutinous carpet. It was pitch black when my pin smacked the furthest edge of my bedroom wall. My arms shook and I could no longer straighten my fingers. I called out to ask if anyone was hungry, but it must have been late, though my phone had died long before and the nails holding the clocks on the wall had rusted and fallen. I staggered to my feet, feeling the cool elasticity beneath my toes, and leaned out the window to ask again if anyone, anyone at all was hungry. All I heard were pigeons and I collapsed backward onto the soft sheet to rest.
Sam Simon is a writer and translator from Oakland, Ca. He is a contributing editor for the Barcelona Review and teaches creative writing at the Institute for American Universities. He is co-founder and managing editor of Infrasonica.org.