In my undergrad years, I took a fiction class in which the students were required to writing a magical realism story. I have a tendency to write about relationships with a hitch. This hitch is just a little less…tangible…than one might see day to day. So, prepare, and enjoy.
Dining at Intangible
Mr. and Mrs. Mickey, newlyweds, walked into the restaurant, slightly wet from the rain. This was the location of their first date just over a year ago. They frequented Intangible often in the days of their courtship and the manager knew them by name.
“Well if it isn’t the Mickeys!” shouted the manager who was standing at the front podium. “Your seat is clean and ready to go, you can head on back. Your waitress will be over in just a moment,” he said.
“Thank you Joe,” Mr. Mickey responded, giving a slight nod.
He shrugged his thick leather jacket from his shoulders and draped it over the chair. Mrs. Mickey unfolded her napkin and placed it in her lap before moving her eyes back to her husband as he sat down.
“Your jacket’s all wet,” she said, flipping her bangs out of her eyes.
“Hm? Oh. Yes it is. The rain,” Mr. Mickey answered, eyeing his wife’s frizzy hair.
The waitress interrupted his pondering. “Would you like the menu today or are you ready to order?” she asked. She was a sweet young girl and always had her blonde hair tied up in a ponytail. Her crisp, white button up shirt was tucked smoothly into her slim black slacks.
“What do you think?” Mrs. Mickey asked her husband.
“Menus, if you don’t mind,” he told the waitress.
“Here ya go,” she said, setting the folders down. “And I’ll be right back with some water and starvation.”
Mr. Mickey nodded and moved his eyes to the menu.
Mrs. Mickey kept her eyes on him, hands folded in her lap.
“Hm…I’m thinking awesomeness sounds good this evening.”
“All you are is awesomeness,” Mrs. Mickey quickly replied.
Mr. Mickey shrugs. “Yes, you’re right.” He continued browsing.
After some minutes, he took his eyes from the Lo section and realized his new wife hadn’t taken her eyes from his face. “What will you get, love?”
“Obsession,” she immediately answered.
Mr. Mickey frowned and regarded her chunky arms and never-blinking stare. “You’ve been eating a lot of that lately. Don’t you think you should try something else?”
She shook her head.
Mr. Mickey flipped to the High portion of the menu and exclaimed, “Ah! Here we go. How about some contentment. Maybe sanity?”
She shook her head again.
“But, love, sanity is good for you. Listen. Freshly cut and grilled to perfection, this tasty meal is at once spicy and juicy. None of that fatty stuff you get in obsession.”
The waitress returned then with a small basket of sliced starvation, still warm from the oven.
“Have you two decided or would you like more time?” she asked, setting the drinks in front of them.
“What’s your soup of the day?” Mr. Mickey asked.
“Insanity,” she said in a chipper voice.
“Hm, that’s a new one.”
“Not many people are brave enough to try it so we make it only once every few months,” she winked.
Mr. Mickey chortled good-naturedly and said, “Well, love, are you ready?”
Mrs. Mickey nodded.
“Oh great! What can I get you?” the waitress asked, pen at the ready.
“That soup. And a side of obsession, please.”
Mr. Mickey rolled his eyes and sighed.
“How would you like that cooked?”
The pen scratched against the paper for a moment before Mr. Mickey spoke. “Can I get despair, lightly grilled and can I substitute the contentment with some regret instead?”
“Of course!” the waitress said, madly scribbling away.
“I never figured out why they put contentment and despair together. They just don’t go well.”
“Upset your stomach last time you tried it,” his wife said.
“Your food should be out shortly,” the waitress said as she turned, perky ponytail waving at the newlyweds.
Mr. Mickey surveyed the restaurant. The dinner hour lighting cast a lamp-lit glow over the room. It was not busy with only a few others dining around them. A young couple smiled sickeningly at each other in a leather booth across the room and Mr. Mickey was reminded of his and his wife’s first date here. They were not quite as young as this couple as they were both in their thirties, but the look on the couples’ faces was similar to what he imagined he and his wife had looked like only a year ago.
They had ordered the same thing. Smitten was a sweet, clean dish to eat. No worrying about bad breath afterward or dumping it all over your lap on accident. He had a sneaking suspicion that his wife had ordered it only because he did but then again, smitten was the typical first date food.
Absently, he reached for a piece of starvation and popped it into his mouth. The salty taste brought him to his senses and he sat straighter in his chair, adjusting his snug fitting shirt.
“Do you see them?” he asked his wife, nodding toward the couple.
She nodded and sighed. “I remember us back then.”
“Yes,” sighed Mr. Mickey. “Darling, don’t you think you should start a diet? You were so slim back then.”
“But obsession is so good. I couldn’t possibly give it up.”
“At least get something less fatty next time. Health is very important.”
“How do you make that sound so awesome?”
Mr. Mickey smiled and reached across the table to pat his wife on the cheek. Their stomachs grumbled in unison.
A basket of starvation and a half glass of water later, the young waitress reappeared balancing a large black tray above her head.
“Here we are folks,” she says, setting down their meals and clearing the appetizer from the table. “I’ll be right back with some more water. Can I sprinkle some cheese on that despair?”
Mr. Mickey waved her away. “No thank you. It’s heavy enough as it is. I don’t usually eat this type of thing,” he chortled, patting his finely chiseled abs.
Mrs. Mickey sighed.
Mr. Mickey picked up a fork and poked at the thick, tan chunk on his plate. Surrounding the despair was red sauce sprinkled with the black specks of regret. No contentment here. He smiled, appreciating their ability to always get the order right.
Cutting into the despair, he took a look at his wife’s dish. The soup was bright orange with red pepper sprinkled on top. “Your insanity looks interesting. How is it?”
“Too hot. The obsession is as good as always though,” she answered, popping a spoonful of thick, purple sweetness into her mouth without taking her eyes from his face.
Mr. Mickey nodded and glanced to the table with the young couple. The young girl across the room had on a pink dress that draped seductively over her hips. Her arms were slim where they rested on the table and the young man was holding her hands. Mr. Mickey looked back at his wife who was staring hard at his face.
“How’s yours?” she asked.
Mr. Mickey took a large bite of the tan chunk and chewed thoughtfully. It appeared tough but when he bit down, it crumbled easily.
“Good,” he said through his bite.
“Jesus, are you kidding me? It’s not like I’m the only one in the world who can clean up the damn kitchen! You could at least pick up the vacuum once a fucking week, couldn’t you?”
Mr. Mickey looked up at the booth on the bar level. He saw a woman with a red face throw a napkin at her friend who had her face buried into her hands and was mumbling something.
“What do you mean you don’t understand? It’s simple! Just pick up the vacuum!” answered the red-faced woman.
A handsome young waiter stopped at the table and said something in a hushed voice to the woman just as the Mickey’s waitress came by their table to refill their waters. “I think she had a little too much anger,” she said quietly with a smile.
They ate in silence. Mr. Mickey savored the sharp tang of regret mingling with the crumbling despair and watched his wife watch him. She finished most of her obsession, though some of it was in her lap. It was a messy food, another reason Mr. Mickey preferred that she not eat it.
Mrs. Mickey slowly brought a spoonful of the orange soup to her lips and slurped. Her eyelids fluttered.
“Well?” Mr. Mickey demanded.
“Want to order something else?”
Mrs. Mickey shook her head and continued to eat.
“Danielle…I am a good mother, aren’t I?”
“Mom, you’re doing very well. Don’t you think you’ve had enough? You should always stop when you’re full. Too many people eat everything that’s in front of them. It’s not healthy.”
“Well, it’s just…you’re such a great daughter and I feel like I’ve been such a mediocre mom. I mean…do you think I was okay?”
The mother and daughter sat in a small two person booth just behind Mr. Mickey and he could hear the mother’s hushed prodding as her daughter calmly answered between small bites of discipline. He was very familiar with the dish. It was very enjoyable but a treat was acceptable every once in a while.
“Do you think your father left me because I’m not pretty enough? I know I stopped trying after I had kids but…do you think that’s why?”
Mr. Mickey snuck a glance behind him, pretending to be looking across the restaurant. He saw a large woman wringing her hands together and dodging looks at her daughter between long stares at the table in front of her.
“Excuse me,” he asked as their waitress rushed past on her way across the room.
“That woman behind me…what is she eating?”
“Oh that’s broiled insecurity. Our new chef is a genius at broiling it to perfection.”
Mr. Mickey nodded and looked back at his dish.
“What is it?” his wife asked.
Mr. Mickey sniffed, suddenly aware his nose was running. “Oh, nothing. Must be allergies.”
“Here,” the woman said, wiping his nose for him.
Mr. Mickey slapped her hand away and looked to his lap. He remembered when he found her behavior endearing. His face crumpled.
“What is it?”
“Nothing,” he answered, biting into his despair again.
Mrs. Mickey went back to her soup as well. A few minutes later she hiccupped. Then she laughed, one loud guffaw.
Mr. Mickey paused among fresh tears to look at her. She smiled mouth open, eyes wide. She hiccupped again.
He thought of their wedding day only last month. He had been so nervous. That should have been his clue to stop the nonsense but one thing led to another and now he was living in an apartment with this woman. Mr. Mickey sobbed and held a napkin to his nose before continuing to chew his food.
“You’re all awesomeness!” his wife squealed at him, banging her spoon down upon his hand.
“Stop! Stop! I can’t take this!” he said, grabbing a glass of water and taking a full swig to satiate his thirst.
“So awesome,” his wife muttered with a giggle.
“How is everything over here?” The chipper waitress asked, filling up their glasses with more water.
Mr. Mickey wailed, “Just horrible. Why did I do this? Why should I keep doing this? I can’t.”
The waitress smiled. “Glad to hear it! Ma’am?”
The wife giggled and flicked a spoonful of insanity at the table.
“Oh! Well this one is messy isn’t it? I’ll get you some more napkins,” she said, breezing away.
Mr. Mickey gulped down the last of his dinner and threw his arm over his face to sob. Meanwhile, his wife cooed his name over and over, swirling the bits of insanity left in her bowl.
“Can I take that for you?”
Mr. Mickey nodded and the waitress took his plate and his wife’s when she didn’t answer due to the excess saliva dripping from her bottom lip to her shirt. The table cleared, Mrs. Mickey stared at her husband and sipped at her water, leaving saliva smeared on the glass. Mr. Mickey began to drink from his glass as well.
He paused, mid-sip and stole a glance across the room. The young couple was still staring blindly at each other. “No!” he shouted. “Don’t do it! Trust me, it’s just not worth it!”
His wife giggled. He just looked at her, tears streaming down his face.
“So awesome.” Suddenly, she jumped up out of her seat and climbed shakily onto her chair. Her heeled shoes wobbled as she stepped on the table, kicking aside her utensils.
This evoked several more sobs out of Mr. Mickey and a visit from the waitress.
“Ma’am? Why don’t you come sit in this nice chair here? Sir? I’m going to have to ask you to try to keep it down, just a little. Trying to keep the dinner atmosphere,” the waitress said with a wink as if entrusting him with a secret.
Mr. Mickey nodded sadly. “Yes. Yes I understand. Of course. Nothing I can do. Nothing that can be done now. If only I could go back…”
“Oh well that’s a shame, isn’t it? More water?”
Mr. Mickey nodded and pressed his thumbs over his eyes. His wife giggled and he felt a poke of a fork on his hand. He opened his eyes and looked at her. She had situated herself back in her seat, but her shirt was now on backwards. “Please,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
Her wide eyes bore into his own and he bit his fist in an attempt to stifle the pain. Why wouldn’t the waitress just let him help the young couple? They could still save themselves.
“Here’s the check. No rush, folks,” their waitress said, dropping the black folder on the edge of the table with their waters.
Mrs. Mickey propped her chin on her hand and said something, tongue lolling, confusing her words.
Mr. Mickey sniffled. “What? I don’t understand. I just…I can’t.”
“Sir? Are you ready for me to take the check?” the waitress asked when she breezed over on her way to the young couple’s table.
“I…oh yes. I guess so,” he responded, taking out his wallet and, fingers trembling, holding out his Visa.
The waitress reached for it and, when he didn’t let go immediately, she said, “I’ve got it, thank you sir.”
“Wait, no! I can’t!”
“Would you like to use a different form of payment?”
Mr. Mickey clutched tightly to the card and moaned pitifully.
The waitress smiled and yanked the card from his sweaty grasp. “I’ll be right back.”
Mr. Mickey ran a clammy palm over his face and felt the snot coat his skin.
“You’re so amazing. I’m so glad we’re married,” his wife said, suddenly coherent.
Mr. Mickey just shook his head as his throat closed up in preparation for a new round of tears.
When his wife spoke again after the check was dropped back on their table, it was a mixture of strange words and guttural sounds. Mr. Mickey shakily signed the check and noticed the lines had blurred beneath the teardrops on the paper. Was that a five or a six?
“Doesn’t matter,” he mumbled to himself. “It’s over. Done.”
Mr. Mickey waited but no more sound came from his wife. So, he wiped his clammy, snot stained hands on his pants and dropped the pen back on the table for the waitress. He took his coat and realized it was still wet.
“We’re leaving. We’re leaving. Leaving with Mr. Awesome,” his wife chanted as they made their way to the door. Mr. Mickey had no strength to remove his hand from his wife’s grasp as they stepped outside and were struck by the rain.