The problem with having people over was that Tom’s place was always a mess. He tried to keep it clean; to make it look like someone responsible lived there, but it was impossible for him to keep that façade up. He had to confront the fact that he was not the most organized person in the world and that he shouldn’t have said “Yes” when asked if he could have his friends over for their weekly gathering. They had that tradition since they started having their own places. It was an excuse for seeing each other more often because if it weren’t for that dinner, they wouldn’t know anything.
Marina had almost always hosted the dinner. She had the most beautiful apartment of the group and her husband was very relaxed about them meeting up so often. Sometimes they only met every two weeks because she had something else to do or her husband needed his space so they just didn’t get together. If it wasn’t her house, they sometimes used Greg’s place but the problem with his house was the fact that it was too far away from anyone else’s and that he had a baby so they had to keep it silent and very short.
So Tom had a lot to do before his friends came over. By his request, the dinner was changed fro mthe usual Friday to Saturday. He knew that if he needed time to plan the whole thing and it was going to be an important meeting because the New Year holidays had just ended and it hadn’t seen each other in weeks. They would normally call for a pizza or something like that but he really wanted to impress them as he had always been the loser of the group, the one that never did anything too impressive, the one that was still single and working a menial job.
Yes, Tom wanted them to see another side of him, a side that he would hopefully actually have. As he started planning, he realized he was really as dull and simple as anyone would think. His job was really not interesting so they never spoke about that but he always got so tired from it that he had almost no time to actually read or hear about other things in the world. He didn’t have any real knowledge about the interesting things of life. He only knew about the boring corner he occupied in the world and that was it. So he really had to make an effort.
The first thing was actually planning the dinner. Even in the New Year’s Eve dinner with his family, he had his old timey notepad and a pencil with which he would write ideas for things to eat. His brother insisted he should just order a pizza and garlic bread but they always did that and he wanted to impress them with something they couldn’t see coming. The garlic bread was a nice idea, so he wrote it down and his mother told him a good salad is always welcome so he wrote that down too. The idea was to have many simple things around.
The days before the meeting, he decided to buy most of the things he needed for his dinner in order to do them first and see if he could do it all by himself or if it really was a better idea to just ask for a pizza. He used the oven and borrowed a bunch of kitchen equipment from his mother, as he didn’t have anything to do proper things at his place. He didn’t even have a blender, just a couple of pans, a cooking pot and the microwave. Tom had to borrow his father’s car too to be able to take all of that back to his place. They thought he was going crazy.
The first thing he decided to do was the salad, which he thought was the simplest of the dishes he had wrote down. He decided to do one mixing vegetables and fruits. It was supposed to be something refreshing and filled with flavors. He did everything the recipe called for but at the end, he doubted the result was the same as in the recipe. Apparently, the fruits and veggies he had chosen weren’t in their best moment. Some of them were too “green” and others were too ripe. It wasn’t to be surprised, as he had never picked up so many things from the supermarket.
He put the salad on the side and decided it would be nice if he kept it on the refrigerator. Then, Tom decided to make the garlic bread. It was a rather simple thing to do. His trial test was going to be with cheap bread he had found in the supermarket. Again, he had made the wrong choice, as the bread was much too hard, like a rock. It was almost impossible to cut it. But once he did, he smeared some garlic paste on it and put it in the oven. The thing was he forgot about it when doing another recipe, so the bread got burned and his second attempt another disaster.
What he was doing in the meantime was mixing the ingredients to make nice thick waffles. He had found a website that advised against the mix they sold in a box and encouraged people to do the mix themselves. The whole kitchen got covered in flour and a couple of eggshells ended up in the mix. He let it harden a bit when he got the garlic bread out of the oven so when he mixed it again, it had a very rough texture, not very similar to the one in the pictures of the website. When he tried it in the pan, it just got stuck there and burned like the bread.
And all of that happened in a single day, the Monday previous to his gathering with friends. He wasn’t ready at all and he was even more of a disaster than he had thought. Tom had never cooked anything for himself and had no idea about entertaining people. He was a shy person, the kind that would always be asked last about a subject, if asked at all. He knew they had put that burden on him because no one else could do it and that thought made him realized he didn’t want to be that person.
So early Tuesday, he grabbed the phone and called every single was one of his so-called friends and told them that he had decided against organizing their little event. He didn’t explain why or anything like that. He thought it was best not to say anything that they could use against him, although he knew they were going to talk anyway. After making all the appropriate calls, he decided to go to bed and rest because he hadn’t been able to sleep properly just because of that stupid meeting being in his brain for weeks and weeks.
A surprise came in Wednesday, after having been able to sleep for ten straight hours. A girl from college called Alicia had come to his door to visit, out of the blue. When he buzzed her in, he didn’t really realize what he had done. But then he did and he started picking up the trash from the floor but then stopped and realized that didn’t make any sense. If Alicia was there, it was because the others had told her about the cancelled reunion. She wanted to know more and he shouldn’t just fake that everything was perfect when it wasn’t.
At the end of the day, that mess in his house was what made him Tom. He was that mess and it was the most original version of his own self. Nothing more could be as perfect to describe him as that pile of things all around, ranging from papers and notebooks to all the ingredients that he hadn’t used and wasn’t going to use for anything, never again. He even had some clothes on the floor, mainly the ones he would pick up and put in bag to take to washing machines in the basement of the building. It was one of those places.
When Alicia arrived, he greeted her on the door and didn’t ask her to come in. He just wanted to know what she was doing there. She said that a bunch of people, including her, were worried about him because he had cancelled out of the blue. She reminded him that he was always so worried about arriving on time to their other meetings and often gave money for more pizza, so it was weird that he would just cancel the gathering that he was in charge of. So Alicia was just there to receive an explanation and she really got one.
Tom said he was tired of being the last person they always thought of, except when they needed money or some idiot to do shit for them. He told Alicia to told every other person in their so-called “friend group” that he wasn’t going to be the same idiot that he had been since college. Maybe he wasn’t brilliant or successful or anything, but he still deserved some respect. He closed the door on her face and decided it was a nice time to order a pizza, all for himself.