I started by roasting a head of garlic. I cut the bottom off, drizzled some olive oil on it, wrapped it in some tinfoil, and put it in the oven for about a half hour.
Then I melted some butter in a saucepan, added in some heavy cream, and the mashed and roasted garlic. I shredded some Parmesan cheese, and tossed that in with a little black pepper and salt. Whisked away until the cheese melted in, then finally a little bit of flour. And there it is. Super easy-peasy Alfredo sauce. I let that sit on low, and gave it an occasional stir.
Then I mixed a little olive oil with a minced garlic clove in a bowl. In another bowl, I mixed up some Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, basil, and black pepper. I dipped some chicken breasts in the first bowl, then the second one. Put the breasts on a baking sheet, and put them in the oven for about 40 minutes.
I took out the Parmesan crusted breasts, and cut them into strips. I also drained the fettuccine noodles I cooked, while the chicken was baking.
I brought out a couple small salads and two glasses of Pinot noir to my hungry guests.
“Main course will be ready in just a few minutes.”
I returned to the kitchen and set a pile of noodles on the center of the plates. I scooped some Alfredo sauce on next, and topped them with the stripped chicken breasts. I walked two plates out, and set them in front of Aaron and Avery.
“Dinner is served.”
Avery glanced down at her plate and asked “you made this?”
“Honey. Trust me. He made this and it’ll probably knock your socks off. This kid is a genius in the kitchen.”
Avery looked at me with a big smile “really?”
“Umm…I guess…that’s what people tell me. I love to cook, but I think it’s pretty easy.”
It still looked like Avery wasn’t sold on it. I encouraged her to eat before things got cold, so she spun a noodle on her fork and brought it to her mouth. As she chewed, her eyes became large saucers.
“Wow! This is the best Alfredo I’ve ever had. Olive Garden has nothing on you.”
“Told ya hun.”
“Do you need anything else?” I asked.
“No. No. Please go get some for yourself.”
We spent the next hour eating, drinking, and laughing. They cleared the entire bottle of wine, minus the half glass they gave me, which I managed to choke down between large gulps of water. I was far from a fan of wine.
Avery finally rose, or rather, stumbled to her feet, to clear the table. “My compliments to the chef. You are just full of surprises Daniel.”
That earned another round of laughter, but as Avery disappeared into the kitchen, she said “don’t forget your cast. I’m gonna change that for you after I load the dishes.”
A few minutes later, I was sitting on a chair with my foot propped up. Avery cut off the existing cast and scrubbed me clean.
“This’ll be the first time I’ve tried one of these drunk, but I didn’t cut you taking off the old cast. So that’s good, right?”
“Oh boy” I responded, eliciting another round of giggles.
“Just…just tell your doctor that some crazy, drunk nurse fixed you up, but don’t tell him my name. Hahaha.”
When all was said and done, she did a pretty good job with the cast. She kept her hands steady and probably took a little more time than normal. It didn’t look much different than the one I had before.
“Thanks Avery” I smiled to her.
Tapping my knee, she said “no problem Daniel. Thank you for dinner. I wish your uncle could cook half they good.”
“I heard that” my uncle said, from somewhere nearby.
“Oh sweetie. You still cook better than me.”
“I’m gonna umm…go to my room and just…chill out it something.”
I really didn’t want to be in the way, and my options were limited. As I started down the hall, my uncle poked his head around the corner.
“Don’t fall asleep. I’m going to teach you how to breath.”
“I ahh…you’ll see. Let me know when you plan to go to bed, ok?”
I plopped myself down on the bed and just laid there on my back for a while. For some reason I had this terrible dread about going back to school the next day. It was as if the other kids would be able to see it on me. Like they would somehow know that my father hit me, and that I went on a pathetic rampage. I didn’t want to be singled out or be known for something so shameful and embarrassing.
Revelations started firing off in my head and I latched onto something I had never thought about before. Until a few months ago, I’d always been a loner. Willingly so. I know my isolation is a factor, but I could have made friendships if I wanted them. I could have used my mom as a taxi service like so many others do, but I always felt most comfortable by myself. I’ve always felt different than the herd. Apart from the crowd. And now, as I dig deeper into what I truly dread about school tomorrow, I know what it is. It’s my friends. It’s them finding out. Them poking into my business. Them looking at me different now. Like damaged goods. Them professing themselves as my savior. Helping me through my troubled times. Truth is, they can’t help me. They can’t imagine what it’s like to be me. To be in my situation. We are merely children after all. They are not equipped to deal with my situation. That is why I must protect this secret with everything I have. There is only one way for me to accomplish this. I must sever ties. It wouldn’t be fair for me to drag them into this ugly mess of a life I live. It wouldn’t be right for me to continue lying to them either. I am damaged goods. A social disease.
As I pondered these thoughts from the darkest chamber of my mind, I felt a familiar buzz in my pocket. I looked at the display. It read “you better have a good reason for blowing me off all weekend. C U tomorrow morning.”
Reason. She has no idea. In my mind, it’s already been determined. Starting tomorrow I will regain my loner status. I will rid myself of friendship. It’s what’s best for everyone. Them and me.
I got up and absentmindedly strummed on a guitar for a while, but became bored and tired. I decided to take a shower and learn how to breath.
After I grabbed my uncle for lesson one, he started my education.
“Ok Daniel. Lay down on your back and get comfortable. Prepare yourself how you normally do. What do you wear to bed?”
“Ok. Good. How many blankets?”
“None or maybe just a sheet.”
“Ok. So lay on your back with a sheet covered up to your waist. Legs straight. Hands at your side. I’m going to set up the proper atmosphere now. What you want is total blackness and absolute silence. If you have a digital clock at home, cover it with something. The darker and quieter the better. Ok. What we’re trying to achieve tonight is nothing more than an exorcise to help you get a good, restful night of sleep. I know you’ve wrestled with insomnia. I used to have the same problem. Once you’ve mastered this, you’ll have no problem falling asleep, both quickly and comfortably. This is the extent of what I’d like to teach you as far as your triangle is concerned. The book I gave you is like taking this to the next level. It’s something I do, but you don’t have to. Read it and let me know what you think. If you’re interested in lucid dreaming, I can guide you there too. Ok. That’s a big enough speech. I don’t want you to fall asleep from boredom. Are you comfortable?”
“Good. What I want you to do is breath in deeply through your nose, and breath out slowly through your nose, until you’ve forced out all if your breath. Focus only on your breathing. Slowly. Big, slow inhale, and a slow exhale. Find a rhythm and follow it, over and over. Now you’re going to do a full body scan. Release all the tension from your body. Starting with your toes. Tighten your toes with your inhale, and release them with your exhale. Feel that tension go away. Now your feet. Tighten them…and release. Calf muscles. Same thing. Release that tension. Ok, now your thighs…and release. Your butt…and release. Your stomach muscles. Feel the tension leave your body. Now your shoulders…and exhale. Your arms. Now release. Your hands. Now with your neck. Exhale. Your head. Squeeze your eyes and mouth, then exhale. Focus on your breathing and how completely relaxed your body feels. Your body feels so good. It’s relaxed and ready for sleep.”
I trailed off to sleep while my uncle continued to talk quietly. I woke up the next morning feeling really, really good. I don’t think I even moved once during the night. Normally I thrash around all night and have to reach down to the floor to bring my blankets back onto the bed. This lesson he gave me is definitely something I will continue to use.
I felt great after getting ready and eating some breakfast. We loaded up and drove to school, my spirit was still running high, until we finally arrived. A sudden wave of dread swept over me. It didn’t go unnoticed by my uncle either.
“It’ll be ok kiddo. Just another day at the office. Listen to your lectures, eat a healthy lunch, and I’m just a call away, if you need anything.”
“Thank you Aaron. I love you.”
“I love you too Daniel.”
With that, he drove off, and I walked to my first class. A class I shared with my now former friend, Kayla.