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Pasta Dreams
by Lori B.

     Mary Simpson had a problem. She couldn't tell her husband, because she was a widow. She couldn't tell her children, because they lived three time zones away and never answered their phones. She couldn't even tell her best friend Adele. Adele might as well have been living on the moon. She was in a nursing home and she didn't recognize Mary anymore. But Mary knew she had to tell someone.

     The reason she knew this was that she'd watched all twenty-five seasons of The Oprah Winfrey Show, rarely missing an episode. She knew, from hearing numerous guests share intimate details of their lives with Oprah, that talking about a problem was often the first step in solving it. She would gladly have talked to Oprah about her own problem (or even Dr. Phil), but she didn't happen to know either of them personally.

     Mary decided she needed to find a stranger to talk to, someone like Oprah or Dr. Phil, but not quite as famous. She thought about doing an Internet search, but she didn't own a computer, or even a smart phone.

     Thinking about her phone reminded Mary that she did still own a 1998 copy of the local telephone directory, complete with yellow pages. It was carefully packed away in a box that lay at the bottom of her bedroom closet.

     Mary sat down in a chair next to the closet. The box was there on the floor, collecting dust. A pair of black patent leather sling back shoes was perched on top of the box, as if waiting for a party. They hadn't seen a party in thirty years, but they were still hopeful.

     Mary removed the shoes from the box top, blew the dust off of them, and set them on the floor next to her chair. Then she lifted the box's lid and peered inside. In it were her old cordless telephone, a Beanie Baby, a dog collar, several sheets of carbon paper, and a package of black fishnet stockings, unopened. And underneath everything, the 1998 phone directory.

     She lifted the heavy book onto her lap and turned to the yellow pages section. She thought about what to do next. Should she look under Psychiatrists, Therapists, or Counselors? she wondered. Psychiatrists sounded too expensive, and Counselors sounded too young. She settled for Therapists, turning to the T section.

     The very first name her eyes came to rest on was that of a Dr. Y. Guy Cavit. Luckily, he wasn't a dentist, Mary thought. That would have been an unfortunate choice of professions, especially if he listed his name directory style. A dentist with the placard, "Cavit, Y. Guy" on his office door would probably cause his patients to run for the hills. Mary winced at the thought.

     But after reading the description of Dr. Cavit's services in the box under his name, she decided to give him a try. "Compassionate Care, No Problem Too Big or Too Small," it said. Mary didn't know if her problem was big or small, but she knew it was slowly driving her crazy, and she needed a lot of compassion right now.

     Mary's problem was pasta. She couldn't stop dreaming about it, and not in a good way. The pasta in her dreams jumped off of her plate and grew to huge dimensions, changing colors, sprouting hairy spikes, and chasing her around the neighborhood. Fronds of spaghetti, ribbons of linguine, even the lowly elbow macaroni haunted her nights with their hideous wiggling and aggressive writhing. Mary had always loved eating pasta, but after weeks of non-stop dreaming about grotesque pasta monsters, she'd lost her taste for it. She feared she'd never be able to enjoy a dish of ravioli or serving of lasagna again.

     Mary soon called Dr. Cavit's office (the phone number hadn't changed in twenty years -- she thought that was a good sign) and made an appointment. After two weeks of nervous anticipation and fourteen new pasta nightmares, the day of her appointment finally arrived, and she entered his office.

     "Mary? I'm Dr. Cavit," he greeted her. "Please have a seat."

     Mary considered the couch, then chose the chair.

     "What brings you here, Mary?" he quietly asked.

     Mary burst into tears.

     "I see you're upset," Dr. Cavit observed.

     "Sorry," Mary said in a shaky voice. "It's just that ... I've been dreaming about PASTA!" She proceeded to sob uncontrollably.

     "Well," Dr. Cavit stated, handing Mary a box of Kleenex, "sometimes pasta is just pasta."

    "Oh," said Mary, sniffing. "I thought maybe it had something to do with my fear of drowning."

     "Well, we can talk about that next time," Dr. Cavit explained, "but for now our time is up."

     Mary thought their session was a little short, but she felt so much better that she was happy to pay the bill. Just as she was about to leave the office, a thought occurred to her. She turned to Dr. Cavit.

     "By the way, Dr. Cavit," she said, "are you by any chance related to the talk show host, Dick Cavit?" (Mary had watched his show religiously back in the early 70s.)

     "No, I'm not," said Dr. Cavit, smiling, "but that's a common mistake. He spells Cavett with an e and two t's. My name was shortened to Cavit. Originally, it was Cavitelli ... like the pasta, cavatelli!"

     "What an odd coincidence," Mary said, a bit surprised, and noticing for the first time Dr. Cavit's dark eyes and handsome smile.

     After Mary left, Dr. Cavit sat deep in thought, and then he lay down on the couch. After a minute or two, he pulled out his phone and started dictating.

     "I've been dreaming about a woman named Mary," he said into his voice recorder.

     Two weeks later, when Mary returned for her appointment, she informed Dr. Cavit that she was feeling much better and no longer needed to continue with therapy. She could have called and cancelled, but for some reason she decided that telling him in person would be more therapeutic.

     "That's great!" Dr. Cavit said when he heard her decision. "In that case, I'd like to invite you out for dinner tonight to celebrate!"

    "Do you have a particular place in mind?" Mary asked.

     "Giuseppe's has homemade pasta, and they cook it just the way I like it: al dente."

     "I accept," Mary answered. Giuseppe's was the restaurant where her husband had proposed to her all those years ago. Come to think of it, maybe that was why she'd been having those pasta dreams. It hadn't exactly been a pleasant marriage, and now that her husband was gone, maybe her true feelings were finally rising to the surface.

     "Al dente ..." Mary mused as she floated out the door, with positive thoughts about pasta again. She felt richer than Oprah and even more well-adjusted than Dr. Phil.

     While dressing that evening for her date with Dr. Cavit, Mary was struck by the similarity between the words "al dente" and "dentist," and she laughed out loud. Almost immediately, she pictured Dr. Cavit's 1998 yellow pages ad, and the words "Compassionate Care" that had first drawn her to him. She hadn't noticed it before, but hidden within the word "compassionate" was this word: "passion."

     And with that thought in mind, Mary walked slowly to her bedroom closet, bent down, and retrieved her black patent leather sling back shoes. Then, without a moment's hesitation, she reached into the box and pulled out her fishnet stockings. Tonight she'd be kicking her pasta dreams up a notch.

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