Furlong explores the hardships of one’s 20s in “Plain pasta with butter.” Photo: CC, pixabay.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Plain pasta with butter

As a child, Elizabeth was a very picky eater. Her diet was strictly confined to five foods: McDonald’s hotcakes, Kraft Dinner, jam on toast (white bread only of course), Oreo cookies, and plain pasta with butter. Plain pasta with butter was her preferred meal, the dish of choice on special occasions. To her, it was a delicacy! It was extravagant! Plain pasta with butter was the most magnificent thing she had ever tasted, it was her safe haven.

Elizabeth looked out her tiny kitchen window as she waited for the water to boil. The windows of her apartment felt as though they hadn’t been replaced in a hundred years, there was no difference in temperature between the outside and the inside. She frequently resorted to observing her own warm exhales as they escaped her lungs, the cold air came in handy whenever she needed something to occupy her mind whilst on the toilet.  

As she tipped the box of macaroni over the seething water she caught a glimpse of her cracked, ashy hands. “Jesus,” she muttered to herself. “This is what I get for $900 a month in Brooklyn.”

Elizabeth’s freelance work barely provided her with the sufficient funds for groceries and toilet paper, let alone rent. Her parents had been supporting her financially since she had graduated from university (which was a little over three years ago). Elizabeth was quite sure that they were beginning to lose sympathy for her situation.  

Elizabeth could not comprehend her lack of luck when it came to employment, she thought of herself as a profound thinker, intelligent but humble. She was most certainly a talented writer. Elizabeth had been trying to get into the New York writing scene since graduation. All she had to show for three years of effort were a few articles published in a small, Brooklyn-based, jazz magazine.

She was 25 years old, single, unemployed, and living off of her parent’s income.

The stove top timer brought Elizabeth back to reality. Her pasta was done. A little bit too done. “Never trust the instructions!” she yelled. Elizabeth had a tendency to take her frustrations out on her roommate’s cat when she was home alone. The cat stared back at her with its usual unforgiving look. Elizabeth rolled her eyes as she reached into the refrigerator, “Don’t act so high and mighty, as if you could judge me,” she hollered.

Out she pulled her roommate’s leftover butter. There were breadcrumbs and jam along the outer edges of the block, Elizabeth removed them carefully and went on to take her share.

The butter glided over the freshly cooked pasta creating a wonderfully fatty, sauce-like, texture. Elizabeth retreated to her room, she took a seat in her unmade bed with her bowl of pasta held tightly in one hand.

Elizabeth looked around her room, she saw the bottle of $11 rosé that she had emptied the night before. The half-finished joint she rolled that morning lay peacefully on her windowsill. She took a long-awaited first bite of her plain pasta with butter and began to cry.

“Plain Pasta with Butter” is a snapshot in time focused on feelings of nostalgia that takes place during the painful, and sometimes naive, years of one’s 20s. Furlong is a third-year English literature student at the U of O—who has never published a fiction piece—this being her first, and hopefully, not her last.  For more of her work, you can visit her personal blog at