by MHM, 11th (fiction)
Two licks and a full swipe of the tongue all the way around the corners of his mouth. As Johnny ate his steaming bowl of savory instant noodles straight from the pot he boiled them in, he was sweating profusely. Drip, drop went the sweat that had surfaced and accumulated on his skin. It steadily rolled down in streams off his plump face. His eyes began to water in complete joy at the exquisite smell of MSG that filled his cramped kitchen room after his twentieth pack of ramen eaten today was emptied into the abyss of which is his stomach, a bottomless pit.
The home phone began ringing. It ran for a full 6 rounds until Johnny reached over to swipe the phone and bring it to his ear to hear his mother screaming at him through the other end.
“Johnny, you better-”
“Sorry Mom, I’m in the middle of a very meaningful moment in my life. Now if you'll excuse me-”
“Don’t you hang up on me a-”
Johnny proceeded to press the “end call” button on the phone and placed it back in its phone holder. He then wobbled his way back to his too small seat and plopped himself down with a grunt and a sigh.
"When will she ever leave me alone?”
He glanced over at his empty pot, not a single drop of soup or a single strand of noodle left. An untouched pack of ramen sat there in the corner of his eye. He couldn’t control himself, no. The temptation hit him like a truck coming at him at full blast. He couldn’t handle it. Without even a second thought, he surged from his seat and reached his arms out towards the lone pack of ramen, relieving the tremendous amount of pressure put on the small chair. With the sight of the pack of instant ramen in front of him, nothing would stop Johnny from getting his hands on it; absolutely nothing, would stand in his way. He lied. He shoved his kitchen table to the side, leaving unwashed pots clanging to the floor. The lone stool at the center of the kitchen splattered into wooden shards as he threw it to the side of the room with only one goal in mind. That damned pack of ramen.
Just as his hands were mere centimeters away from the instant ramen, a framed photo stopped him dead in his tracks. It was the one picture that brought back so many painful memories. It was, a picture of a lone strand of instant ramen noodle from the shin ramyun collection.
“Johnny! What are you even doing? Come on, let’s go play tag!”
Paul started jumping around in happy circles. Even Johnny was excited, although for a completely different reason.
“Okay, Paul! You can go on ahead, I’ll go catch up to you later! I’ve got some things to do first.”
“Okay, whatever you say Ramen Boy.” Then Paul ran off to where the game was starting.
A light blush scattered over Johnny’s cheeks at the sound of his nickname his fellow classmates gave him. He couldn’t really decide whether he liked it or not because it was true, but he wanted to be more than Ramen Boy. He felt that people only saw him for his love for ramen when there were other things that he cared about too, maybe not as deeply as instant ramen.
Today was the day he was going to confess to the biggest crush he has ever had on anyone. Besides ramen of course. He was going to confess to Lydia, the girl of his dreams. She had long, black wavy hair, smelled like deep fried food, and was small. Oh, he just wanted to get his hands on her and lick her to taste that delightful MSG and fried goodness.
12 year old Johnny crept slowly to where his crush was sitting right under the trees next to the play structure. He felt all sorts of giddiness as he got closer. His heart was beating as fast as a hummingbird’s wings as he closed in.
“H-hey there…” Johnny stuttered there a bit.
Silence. There was only silence that answered him.
“I-I just wanted to let you know that you’re really p-pretty and that you s-smell the best.” Johnny’s face flared up and he felt like he was being cooked from the inside-out.
Silence met on the other end, yet again.
Johnny worked up all his courage and walked right where she sat and stood right in front of her.
“Here,” Johnny placed the item the was hiding behind him, and set it down before Lydia. It was a noodle ring. Specifically, a noodle ring made out of a instant ramen noodle strand.
"I know it’s not much, but I really tried my best. Please accept this ring.”
There was so much hope on Johnny’s face, that it would be apparent to anyone who walked by that he was so desperately, and foolishly in love.
He was yet again, met with silence.
“No reaction? Yeah, I figured you were shy.” Just when Johnny couldn’t believe that he could blush anymore, he blushed ten shades darker red.
Lydia just sat there in all her glory, staring off toward the setting sun, black hair a little tossed by the wind, and the solid dried curls wrapped around her body looking slightly more greasy than usual because of the blaring sun.
“So, what do you say? You accept? I’ll promise I’ll treat you better than any pack of ramen I have ever eaten.” A small smile showed it’s way up on little Johnny’s face. Then, it froze there when he heard laughs coming from behind the play structure.
“HAHAHA Ramen Boy is getting rejected by the pack of ramen he calls Lydia. And he loves ramen too! How sad, tsk tsk.” The boy wearing the hot dog shirt cried out in laughter and couldn’t stop laughing until his two other friends shushed him.
“No, Lydia is just a bit shy. She accepted me gladly. You can tell by the look on her face, am I right Lydia?”
Johnny turned around to face Lydia, still sitting there in all her instant ramen glory. He started to feel a bit more nervous and he was doubting himself. Did she really accept his ring?
"You see Ramen Boy, food does not talk. I hope you realize how dumb you are. See you loser.” The boy wearing the hot dog shirt sticks out his tongue, snickers, and begins to saunter off until Johnny speaks up.
“Don’t call me that.”
“Call you what?” Hot dog boy starts stroking his chin. “ Oh, Ramen Boy?”
Johnny slightly nods in his head in silent determination yet fear.
“Well what else am I supposed to call you? That’s all you are and all you’ll ever be, Ramen Boy.”
No matter how much Johnny saw his words coming, the words still struck deep in his heart. He knew that he was more, he had to be more than just Ramen Boy.
“Y-you’re wrong.” Johnny said.
“No, I’m right. What type of boy has a crush on a pack of ramen with a black wig on it? It’s not a human, it’s food that’s been sitting outside for months that no one has bothered throwing away. Can’t you see? And all you ever do is eat instant ramen, play with ramen, talk with ramen. I have never seen you do anything else.”
“Y-you’re wrong.” Johnny repeated again.
“Oh yeah? Fine, I’m wrong then, if you say so.”
Some small part of Johnny felt a bit better when he heard those words, although he knew they didn’t mean much, but then things got infinitely worse.
Hot dog boy then stomped over to where Lydia was and brought up his foot above Lydia, holding it up there with a smirk on his face. That’s when Johnny’s face had stricken in horror and realization in what he was about to do.
“NO!” Johnny ran over to Lydia, ready to use his own body to save her but he was too late. Hot dog boy had already made the big leap, and stomped on Lydia, all over her. He squashed Lydia with the bottom of his shoe, squashing it with the ball of his foot like a bug and shrieked out in joy and laughter over crushing Lydia.
On the other hand, Johnny was screaming in pain and heartache. How could he let this happen to Lydia? She didn’t do anything wrong. These thoughts kept on running through Johnny’s head as his vision blurred and his eyes brimmed with tears. Anger, sadness, regret, all these emotions flickered through Johnny’s mind.
It all happened so fast when he felt a blow in his abdomen that came from someone’s leg. It all hurt too much. He didn’t care anymore. He just wanted out. He felt the blows come again, and again, and again as more people joined in the kicking, scratching, and clawing. Tears streamed down his face as he curled up into a fetal position and began whimpering.
“Pathetic. The hot dog boy snarled. “Absolutely pathetic.” Then Johnny faced the ring he made for Lydia. His Lydia. And it had been stepped on, ripped into bits of cold, chewy ramen. His heart shattered into a million pieces right there.
“What a loser. You will always be Ramen Boy. Let today be a reminder.”
Hot dog boy kicked him in the stomach one more time before he and his group of friends left.
This time, he didn’t try to deny it. He didn’t try to deny that he wasn’t ramen boy. Any sort of hope he had in being more was gone, all gone in a matter of minutes. How could he let himself reach this point? He didn’t even think about the tag game he was supposed to be at or that he should probably get up. He just stayed there, sobbing his heart out. He was utterly broken. Completely broken, and 12 year old Johnny didn’t know if he could ever be fixed.
Johnny stared at the photo of his ramen ring again, and then looked back at the pack of ramen that he was so desperately trying to reach before, and… it seemed less appetizing. He was revolted by it, by himself and the way he had let himself become. 9 years of his life down the drain wasted and poured down the drain just like that. He stared at that pack of ramen sitting there again. He was furious. Furious at everything.
He ran over, snatched the pack of ramen and brought it under his foot. Then he crushed it. Crushed it the way Lydia had been crushed that day 9 years ago. He threw the remains against the wall and stomped his way to the bathroom. He needed a bath, immediately. He felt filthy after stomping on the ramen like that.
He let the tub fill with steaming hot water, and then plunked himself in, squeezing himself into the inconveniently small place. He let out a sigh of relief as the hot water befuddled his senses and he just let go. He let everything go. He let go of the pain, the emptiness, all feelings and let himself sink further into the tub. He was ramen boy. He didn’t know how to be someone else. As he sat there in the tub, his face became wet. He couldn’t tell if it was from the bath water or if they were his own tears.
Oakland | East Bay, CA