You know what it means to have dinner. The meal that satiates before slumber. After the sky is drained of fire and flooded with ink. But what does it mean to have dinner with a man? To sit across from each other at that Thai place that just opened. To look at the menu and not see the words because his hand grazed yours and euphoria dripped from the base of your neck down your spine and he smells like mint and spice and something else that you can’t describe and you rush your inhale so you can breathe him again. If he was on the menu, you’d order him twice, one to eat now and the second to take home to be consumed by the glow of the naked bulb that lights your kitchen. But what does it mean to have dinner with a man and his parents? To fold and refold the napkin on your lap as his mother examines you with narrowed eyes from across the table. You’re smiling and talking about the roses in your garden, but you swear she can see the time you cheated on the spelling quiz in third grade. And if his mother advances an inch forward in her chair she’ll spot the time you let your friend shoplift the Popsicle Pink lipstick even though you knew it was wrong but they were going through something and you wanted to see them smile. Then he squeezes your hand. Your heart remembers its purpose and oxygen reaches your limbs again. But what does it mean to have dinner with a man in silence? To watch as the butter sauce on the fish turns from creamy to congealed. To listen as the clock you picked out during the honeymoon you planned for months chimes undisturbed from the next room. The song is a call and you answer. You push your chair back, stride over to him, hold his face in your hands, whisper I’m sorry, and crush your lips onto his. He pulls you to his lap, folds your bodies into one, and answers I’m sorry too. The boulder in your stomach is reduced to flint, igniting a shivering spark. But what does it mean to have dinner with a man after the kids are gone? To sit around a table too big, in a room too full of emptiness, alone together. To laugh at how silly you both feel now that there’s less laundry to do, less food to cook, and more time. More time than you ever expected. He says he knows how you can spend that time and winks. Euphoria drips from the base of your neck down your spine. You say you’re sure you have no idea what he means, and you smile. But what does it mean to have dinner with a man who’s not there? To look down at your plate and not recognize what you see. To look up and pretend he’s still there. Holding on to memories like they’re the last gasp for air before drowning. Dinner is your favorite, because it satiates before slumber, and when you close your eyes you’re back at that Thai place. It just opened. You know what it means to have dinner.
Veronica Klash loves living in Las Vegas and writing in her living room. Her nonfiction can be found in NPR publication Desert Companion. She is a reader for Witness and her fiction has been published or is forthcoming in Rhythm & Bones, Cheap Pop, and Ellipsis Zine. You can find Veronica and her work here.
Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower