Dinner for Two

In an ordinary suburb like so many countless others, Teddy and Chloe set out for the mundane task of grocery shopping. However, they did not arrive together. In fact, they did they know one another at all. Neither noticed when they: passed each other by in the cereal aisle, stood side-by-side at the deli counter, simultaneously reached for bananas, and stood next to another in neighboring check out lines. Nor, did they notice when they loaded their groceries into their cars and pulled out of the parking lot, before driving away in opposite directions.

Teddy hurried home to get dinner underway, regretting that he hadn’t done his shopping earlier. Whenever his wife worked a 13-hour shift at the children’s hospital, he liked to make sure dinner waiting for her when she came home. As much as he loved doing this task, she would still feel the urge to remind him that he had no excuse not to. He was, after all, “only a teacher. Your job is easy. Mine is not.” He actually agreed with her, but she acted otherwise.

Even if tonight’s dinner wasn’t ready on time, he was making something both new and vegetarian (though, he preferred meat). Hopefully she would at least appreciate that. And maybe, she would even agree to have sex for the first time in almost two months.

Wishful thinking.

Chloe, on the other hand, admittedly wasn’t the greatest cook in the world, which was one of two reasons why she preferred not to cook (general laziness, being the other). It also explained why her modest kitchen was even more modestly stocked. On the rare occasion that she did decide to cook, it usually necessitated a trip to the grocery store. Even if she had some of the ingredients, half the time, they were past their expiration date. But every now and then, she surprised both herself – and her husband – by having a meal waiting for him when he returned from a job he couldn’t stand. Meanwhile, while slaved as an inadequate housewife.

She would give it her best effort tonight. She certainly had her moments. And fortunately, her kitchen “inadequacies” never seemed to bother him – at least not outwardly. They both joked that it was a good thing she didn’t cook that often: her cooking sucked. It wasn’t that he didn’t do his part from time to time, but only if it involved a grill.

“We can go out,” he would often suggest.

Tonight, she was going to make him his favorite: her mother’s meatloaf. Maybe, for once, he wouldn’t ask for sex for once. She figured that would be a fair trade off. If only he could better understand that to her, sex was a painful reminder of the fertility issues that had left them childless. As much as she tried to resist it, she equated sex with failure. As did the golden retriever they purchased in an attempt to fill the void.

Teddy arrived to his cookie-cutter colonial and quickly removed the bags of organic ingredients (if it were up to him, he would save money by buying non-organic items) from his trunk, before hurrying into the house. Despite his panicked urgency, he paused for a moment:

So, what if dinner wasn’t waiting on the table the second she got home? How many times was dinner waiting on the table for him when he got home?

After all, she only worked three days a week. Sure, they were long hours, but three days all the same. He worked five. However, remembering how she was likely to respond if dinner wasn’t ready when she got home motivated him to hustle even more. It was a vicious cycle.

Across town, Chloe arrived at her cookie-cutter colonial and unloaded the groceries from her trunk, grabbing more bags than she could handle. Like Teddy, she regretted not doing her shopping earlier. She desperately wanted to make sure dinner was waiting for her husband when he arrived home. One of the plastic bag handles ripped off, dropping the contents onto the ground. Of course, it was the one bag containing something breakable: a carton of eggs. Only two of them survived. Fortunately, the recipe only called for two. She counted her blessings.

Relieved, she lugged all her bags inside the house in two trips, put the groceries away, then opened a bottle of Pinot Noir. She paused momentarily, wondering if alcohol would only further impair her sub par cooking ability. She poured half a glass in a compromise, then wondering if maybe putting her alcohol into her cooking would help!

Meanwhile, Teddy opened a bottle of Pinot Grigio, poured himself a full glass, (wishing it were bourbon), took a healthy sip, filled it back up, pre-lit the oven, then started preparing the meal. Despite suffering a small cut on his finger while chopping carrots, it wasn’t enough to deter him. He simply wrapped his finger in a paper towel and got back to work. He was making good time.

No stranger to kitchen clumsiness herself, Chloe burned her finger when she putting the meatloaf in the oven. She ran her finger under the lukewarm water, then wrapped it in a napkin, before heading upstairs into the bathroom to slap on a Band-Aid.

Meanwhile, Teddy placed the casserole into the oven, then guzzled down the remainder of his wine and set the table, just as Chloe took a baby sip of wine before she set the table.

They then both turned on Detroit Public Radio for the evening jazz program, then   prepared a couple of side dishes, washed the dirty dishes, put away the remaining groceries, and lit a candles at the table. They then both sat down with their wine glass in hand, eagerly awaiting their spouses to come home (while paradoxically enjoying the remaining “me time” they were being afforded). They took solace in knowing that they did something that would make their spouses happy – at least for one evening.

Teddy took another large sip of wine, before realizing that he should put the brakes on, before he finished off the bottle and passed out. After all, if he had any shot at romance tonight, she would need a fair amount of wine herself.

As Chloe finished off her first glass of wine, she tried putting herself into the mindset needed for her to even consider lovemaking. For once, she felt slightly horny. Which was significant progress.

She considered pouring herself another glass, but decided to wait for dinner. She didn’t want to get to sleepy.  She rinsed out her glass, before setting it down on the table in front of her place setting.

The anticipated time of each spouse’s arrival passed by and day soon eroded into night. Phone calls were greeted by voicemail. Annoyance soon blossomed into mild anger, before concern.

Teddy turned the Tigers game on, relishing the opportunity to actually watch a game for once without somebody demanding that he change the channel – or even worse, shutting the TV off all together.

On a couch across town, Chloe had fallen asleep while reading a book. There was nothing she loved more.

She awoke a half hour later and called her husband again. This time, it went straight to voicemail. She considered blowing out the candle, which now seemed to be mocking her. She decided to keep lit to keep some semblance of hope alive.

Across town, Teddy dialed his wife again. After a few rings, voicemail. Should he be worried? Every worse-case scenario suddenly consumed his thoughts. It was unlike her not to call if she was running behind. However, in the case of Chloe’s husband, this was par for the course.

Teddy dialed again. This time, she picked up.

“Hi, sorry, I didn’t hear my phone ring. I’m having dinner with Natasha. I’ll be home in a couple of hours.”

“Oh…” Teddy said, equally confused and disappointed.

“Am I not allowed to go out?” his wife asked with characteristic disdain.

“Of course you’re allowed to go out,” he said. “That’s not what I meant.”

“Then why do you sound so disappointed?”

“Well, if you have told me you were going out, I wouldn’t have bothered to prepare such a nice dinner.”

“Well, how was I supposed to know you were cooking?” she asked. “Plus, you need to eat, right?”

“It’s just not like you to not tell me what you’re doing.”

“Do I have to tell you everything I do?” she asked.

“No, you don’t,” Teddy replied. “But in this case, it would have been helpful. I was getting worried. You don’t usually just disappear.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but I’m a big girl. I don’t need you to worry about me like I was your child.”

“It’s okay,” Teddy said, trying to mask the disappointment in his voice. “We can eat it tomorrow.”

“If you’re trying to make me feel guilty, it isn’t working.”

“I’m not trying to make you feel guilty—”

She hung up on him. To his knowledge, for the first time in the history of their eight-year relationship.

Teddy stared at the phone in disbelief, before slamming it down on the table. He blew out the candle, then proceeded to take a chug straight from the bottle. He looked out the window into the black night

What happened to us?

Chloe, meanwhile, blew out her candle, then succumbed to pouring herself another glass of wine and took a sip, desperately awaiting the sound of her husband’s car pulling into the garage. One of the few highlights of her day was greeting her husband at the door. For the first time, she realized how pathetic it was.

Like an excited dog greeting an indifferent master.

When did he ever wait for her at the door?

She called him again. This time, he answered.

“Where are you?” she asked

“I had to run a few errands and am on the way to the gym.”

“I made you meatloaf.”

“Thanks. But I already ate,” her husband said with casual indifference.

“What do you mean you already ate?” she asked, trying to bury the hurt and rage building up inside her.

“I picked up some fast food. I didn’t think you were cooking.”

“The one time I cook a nice meal …”

“I’m sorry,” he snarked. “But like you said, the “one time”’.

The words reached her like a piercing blow.

She was too stunned to respond.

“If it makes you feel any better, I will take it to work tomorrow.”

“That’s not the point.”

“What is your point?”

“Nevermind,” she said.

“I’ll see you when I get home,” he said.

“Ok,” Chloe said on the verge of tears as she slowly hung up.

Both Teddy and Chloe stared out the window, wondering:

What happened to us? 

They then both re-lit their candles and poured themselves the remainder of their wine, taking solace in the notion that nobody could say they didn’t try.

They each raised their glass for an imaginary toast, before taking a long, deserving sip, before digging into their delicious, melancholy meal.

Unbeknownst to both of them – on the other side of town – Teddy and Chloe’s respective spouses also enjoyed a meal together that night. In an ordinary suburb like so many other countless others.