Dinner for Two
One day, in an ordinary suburb like so many countless others, Teddy and Chloe went grocery shopping. But, they did not arrive together. In fact, they didn’t know one another at all. Nor would they ever. Sadly, little did they know just how connected they were. The extent of their interaction was as follows: while crossing paths in the cereal aisle, they both nodded at one another in the friendly manner of strangers. They would never notice one another again. Not when they were standing by one another at the meat counter, nor when they both reached for produce at the same time – she for fruit, he for vegetables. Nor did they noticed when they stood next to one another in neighboring check out lines. Nor when they loaded their groceries into their cars on opposite sides of the parking lot. And finally, nor when they both simultaneously pulled out of the parking lot, before driving away in opposite directions.
Teddy hurried home, regretting that he didn’t do his grocery shopping earlier. As he always did on the days his wife worked her regular 13-hour shift at the hospital, he prepared dinner. He always made it a goal to have it waiting for her when she came home. And it was a good thing, too. She did not like it when dinner wasn’t waiting. She no longer appreciated his efforts. She simply expected it. As she liked to remind him, he was “only a teacher.” His job was easy. Hers was not. He should have dinner waiting for him when she came home.
Even if it wasn’t ready when she came home, he took solace in hoping that she would at least appreciate the fact that he was making something he had never made before – pork tenderloin. That would surely make up for it. She would at least appreciate that. And maybe – just maybe – she would agree to sex for the first time in a month.
Chloe wasn’t the greatest cook in the world, which explained why she didn’t cook much. However, there were certain dishes that her husband loved. Today, she was going to make him his favorite: her mother’s meatloaf. It was her way of trying to make up for not having sex with him for almost two weeks. It wasn’t because she wanted to punish him. And it wasn’t that she wanted it to be like this. She felt bad for him. But it was just that the very idea of sex nauseated her. For the first few years, she let him have his way with her, whenever he wanted and whether she wanted it or not. But lately, the idea of sex was a painful reminder of the her fertility issues that have left them childless. She equated sex with failure. Not that it mattered that much to him. He didn’t even want children. He figured since he finally agreed to let her get a dog – despite his firm reluctance – she was finally over it. But she wasn’t. And now, since she no longer wanted sex, she figured the least she could do was cook him his favorite meal. Maybe tonight would finally be the night that she would find the strength give it up to him. After all, it was only for a few minutes. Better yet, she was hoping that maybe he would finally ease up on asking her in exchange for the nice meal she prepared for him.
Teddy arrived home and quickly removed the bags from his trunk, before hurrying into the house. He never, for one second, realized how ridiculous it was that he was breaking his back trying to make sure dinner was ready on time. 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 from? After all, she only worked three days a week. Sure, they were long hours, but three days all the same. He worked five. Not that he was keeping score. She always liked to keep score. He didn’t bother wasting his energy on such questions, because he knew how she got. And remembering only motivated him to hustle even more to get dinner underway, not even bothering to put the groceries away first. He only removed the items he needed for the meal and left the rest to put away later.
Meanwhile, a few blocks away, Chloe arrived at a suburban cookie-cutter home that looked identical to Teddy’s. She unloaded the groceries from her trunk, taking more bags than he could handle. She dropped the one bag containing something breakable – a carton of eggs. Only two of them would survive. Fortunately, the recipe only called for two. She would not have to go back to the store. She lugged all her bags inside the house in two trips, put the groceries away, then opened a bottle of red.
Teddy opened a bottle of white, poured himself a glass, took a healthy sip, then started preparing the meal. Despite cutting his finger while chopping carrots, he was making good time.
No stranger to kitchen injuries herself, Chloe cut her finger while peeling potatoes, peeling a chunk of flesh off her finger as though it were potato skin.
Teddy put the tenderloin into the oven, guzzled down the remainder of his wine, set the table and finally, put away the remainder of the groceries.
Meanwhile, several blocks away, Chloe put the meat loaf into the oven, finished off her glass of wine, before proceeding to set the table. She considered pouring herself another glass of wine, but knew better. She could wait for dinner. She rinsed out her glass, before setting it down on the table in front of her place setting.
Simultaneously, Teddy and Chloe prepared side dishes for his meal, washed the dirty dishes and utensils, put away the remaining groceries, then turned on some jazz, lit some candles, all before sitting down to take a breath, both eagerly awaiting their spouses to come home, taking solace in knowing that they did something that would make their spouses happy – at least for one evening.
The expected time of arrival had passed and day soon eroded into night. Looking back and forth between the window and clock no longer seemed to serve a function.
Teddy turned the ballgame on and picked up a novel, but his brain was suddenly too drenched in the sad reality of his life to allow himself to voyage into the endless possibilities of fiction.
A few blocks away, Chloe had fallen asleep – the one thing that she could always turn to escape from the depression that was always simmering beneath her melancholy surface. She awoke a half hour later and called her husband. It went straight to voicemail. She considered blowing out the candle, which now seemed to be only mocking her efforts. But she quickly realized that doing so would seem as though she were giving up.
Meanwhile, Teddy dialed his wife. After several rings, it went to voicemail. As it always did when she was late, paranoia of the worse-case scenario immediately 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.
Both Teddy and Chloe continued to try reaching their respective spouses, but to no avail. On the third attempt, Teddy’s wife finally 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, making no effort to make his disappointment.
“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, I made you a nice dinner. Had I known you were going out, I wouldn’t have . . .” He hesitated.
“Wasted your time?”
“I would have made it some other time,” he said.
“Well, how was I supposed to know you were cooking?”
“Well, remember how I promised I would cook a nice dinner, after you bitched about what I made you yesterday?”
“No, I don’t,” she said. Teddy knew she was lying. Little did he know just how much lying she was doing.
“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. Plus, I was getting worried.”
“Well, I’m sorry, but I already had dinner plans. And I’m a big girl. I don’t need you 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 – a perpetual habit of hers that was progressively becoming worse. Teddy stared at the phone in disbelief, before slamming it down on the table. He blew out the candle, then proceeded to pour himself a glass of wine, which he slammed down, then stared out the windows seeking answers to the one question most frequently running through his mind: What happened to us?
Elsewhere in the same neighborhood, Chloe decided to pour 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 when he came home from work, with the same eagerness and devotion of a dog greeting its master. Conversely, she couldn’t remember the last time he waited at the door for her. But she never really seemed to mind. She decided to call 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.”
“What do you mean you already ate?,” she said, trying to bury the hurt and rage building up inside her.
“I picked something up at a drive-thru. I didn’t think you were cooking.”
“The one time I cook a nice meal, you don’t want it.”
“I’m sorry. But maybe you should cook more often,” he said. The words reached her like a piercing blow.
“I can’t believe you just said that,” she responded, struggling to get the words out.
“No offense, but maybe if you cooked more often, I would have naturally assumed that dinner would be waiting. But since you don’t, how was I to know?”
“You could have called. I could have told you.”
“Do I have to tell you every little thing I do?”
“No. But in this case, it would have been helpful to know.”
“I’m sorry. I was hungry. So I got a bite to eat. At least you have something to eat. And I can take it to work tomorrow.”
“That’s not the point.”
“What is your point?”
“Nevermind,” she said, fighting back tears.
“I’ll see you when I get home,” he said. “Love you.”
“Love you, too.” Click.
Chloe proceeded to blow out the candle and stared at her lovingly prepared meatloaf, wondering aloud in hopeless desperation: What happened to us?
A few blocks away, Teddy sat at the table, cupping his head in his hands in frustration. Chloe did the same. After a few moments, they each re-lit the candle, restoring some semblance of hope. They then poured themselves another glass of wine, taking solace in the notion that nobody could ever say that they didn’t try.
Several blocks away from one another, Teddy and Chloe raised their glasses in the air for an imaginary toast, before taking a long, deserving sip, before digging into their delicious meal.
to both of them – on the other side of town – Teddy and Chloe’s
respective spouses also enjoyed a meal together that night. Sadly,
life is sometimes like that.
Bobby Fox is the award-winning writer of several short stories, poems, 15 feature length screenplays, a novel and the writer/director/editor of several award-winning short films, produced through his Makeshift Productions. Fox graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and a minor in Communications and received a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Wayne State University.