I like to think that the day she lost the meatloaf is the day my life changed forever.
Rachel lived in the apartment above mine. She was single, like me—except Rachel was different. Rachel was not pale with dramatic brown eyes, full lips and cascading long hair, like most Rachels I had known. Rachel is a pretty name, but Rachel wasn’t pretty in the way her name suggested.
Rachel wore mittens on her hands, every day even if it wasn’t really that cold. She walked her dog Bernie everyday at 7:00am. I know this because I eat breakfast every day at the window, and I watch her. She worked 9-5 at the library, came home, cooked something with onions—I know because I could smell it—and went to bed. Her routine never changed. I guess I wouldn’t know for sure if she went to bed, though. I’d never actually witnessed that.
But the point is, she started bringing me meatloaf every Thursday night, because it was her favorite food and she didn’t know how to cook it for just one. I didn’t always eat it. Sometimes I had a date, but I always took it to put in my fridge.
It was something I could always count on—my life wasn’t as predicable and safe as I figured Rachel’s was.
But one Thursday…the doorbell didn’t ring. Half past eight…no Rachel.
I waited a while and my telephone rang
A shaky little voice was on the line
“I lost it.”
The meatloaf? How do you mean you lost it?”
In tears now, “its burned…it’s gone.”
“oh.” My cellular phone rang in the other room.
“Look, Rachel, I—“
“I was wondering if—“
The phone kept ringing.
“Sorry about the loaf. Gotta go bye.”
I hung up and grabbed my cell phone.
“We would like to interest you in our new line of car care insurance….”
I hit the end button immediately.
I walked over to the fridge, and got myself a bowl of cereal and sat at the window as usual.
Then I had this epiphany of sorts. I was sitting, alone eating. I was alone. I pictured Rachel in the apartment above me. Rachel all alone. I thought what if this girl was on the edge you know? What if she was one dinner alone away from slitting her wrists with a steak knife?
Heck, what if I was one dinner away from….
But it wasn’t my problem, really, was it?
I looked at the phone a while, and the cereal wasn’t all that appetizing anyway.
I hit redial.
It rang and rang.
I jumped out of my chair and ran to her apartment, I pictured Rachel dead on the floor, Rachel, dead in the bathtub, I pictured Rachel…you get the idea.
I wasn’t going to let this girl die because of some burned meatloaf.
“Oh hi, Tim.” She went over to the sink and put a soggy bowl of cereal in the pile of dishes.
She was dressed really nicely like she was supposed to go on a date or something, all red and sequiny.
“You look nice, going somewhere special tonight?”
“I was, but he cancelled.”
“How come you made meatloaf?”
“Because, I like…I like making it for you.”
“Rachel, how would you like to go have dinner at that restaurant on the next block?”
“I’d like that.”
And maybe what had gotten to Rachel that day wasn’t about meatloaf at all. But I’m kind of glad she lost it because sometimes all you need is a break in routine (albeit good or bad) to realize what you’ve been missing.