When she was preparing a meal she gave nothing away. She was more than mirthful, even manic her kids would say—she had always been for the sake of her children.
Yet since they were all gone from her table, her house, and her life, she had lost any reason to be except she was doing as she had always done, in her married life, in her whole life really, now that she thought about it. What happened before didn’t seem so relevant now.
Still, she exuded waves of it, this exaggerated and nervous cheerfulness. She was the epicenter, churning whatever sediment of mildly cheerful family memories into white crested tsunamis.
And it all but broke upon the solid, treacherous reef of her silent dining companion, anchored at the breakfast table—where they now ate all of their meals—guarded by the day’s edition of The Mavis Constitution and the cone of white noise the TV projected from behind him.
They had tried. They really had, after their youngest left for Vassar. Romanced by the idea that they would finally
have time for each other, they could finally look into each other’s eyes, hold hands again, and breathe deep as if for the first time. She brushed up on her cooking, oh how she could cook before macaroni and cheese and meat loaf and hot dogs.
He began looking for specimens to repopulate the wine rack—reds, whites, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Madeira.
They went about this happily enough it seemed, but really fear penetrated everything they did. They feared that at the end of their long and deep breath, they would look into each other’s eyes and see no fire, find each other’s hands cold and unsupportive.
--note: stuff should go here :o---
Soon, inevitably, their dinners together grew silent and she turned her ire inward upon itself.
The pings of silver on China were all that carried a dinner set for two people who could no longer stand to make eye contact throughout their only shared meal. Meeting eyes led to discomfort, silences more awkward than usual, and the expectation that clumsy and aggravating conversation was necessary—they had run out of things to say to each other so long ago, during the time their children still occupied dinner with their antics.
They found that they ate more. Food disappeared faster when two people, with the posture of scholars over dinner plates, instead of volumes, were so dedicated. They got second and third helpings for themselves until they decided that an adequate amount of time had been given to the dining ritual; they ate
what time they otherwise would have spent making small talk or trading jokes with their children or trying to trick them into eating the green leafy that had been rationed out to each of their plates.
It only got hot after they were finished eating.
She was puzzled and, quite frankly, also a bit awed (or maybe empowered) at how quickly her rage could surface. It stayed dormant throughout her solitary, daytime activities as a housewife, but it was all released in the course of forty minutes, all of that simmering intensity fired into washing dishes.
Her tension started to ooze as soon her dining companion grunted to indicate he was satisfied and released his belt--which already had three more notches in it than it came with--and beat a quick retreat to the study.
She waited until the solid, double doors slammed behind him before she started trembling in place, releasing all of the pressure held down by the heavy air that pervaded when they were both in the same room together.
The storm that formed in this sudden low-pressure system generated a purposeful clamor; the clanks and pings of the dinner set taking the barrage of utensils she fired into the sink; the noisome manhandling of the washed dishes into the washing machine that had not been used for washing dishes since her children left; the cacophony of pans being stacked, banged and scraped in a manner loud enough to be heard in the study, which she subconciously hoped was successfully spreading her obscured wrath like a grease film on the surface of murky dishwater.
And though she was fuming, she was still utterly adept at getting everything spotless, even the delicate, thin-stemmed wine glasses that he insisted
on using. And this is what he did. He set traps of provocation for her, because, secret to her and to himself, he was yearning for an explosion. And the relief that release would suerly bring.
“Let’s use these. A classy Bordeaux deserves to be sipped from a nice glass,” he said with a look in his eyes as if he dared her to break one, leave just even a tiny chip or crack, and see what would happen then.
But no hot words were ever exchanged between them, though they re-infected each other with rage as if through the principle of induction- the loud closing of drawers, the harried setting of the table, the curt pouring of fine wine and of course the noisome nightly dishwashing - the nearly imperceptible electromagnetic field inducing enough heat in the pot to boil the water in it.
But, it never boiled over.
They never found the relief they both obliquely sought. Though it sounded like the end of the world every night for the twenty five years after her youngest left for school and before her husband died, in all that time not one piece of tortured glass or porcelain or ceramic ended it's miserable life in the care of her ever skillful hands.
© y.g. yen 2004