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Potluck

Poetry & Prose | October 1, 2012

He’s a lawyer from somewhere in the Midwest.

She’s very much uninterested,

although she knows how to fake a smile. He orders

the braised short ribs and recommends

the radicchio salad for her.

He watches her elliptically sculpted ass

walk towards the door.

She doesn’t much like salad.

 

He’s a dentist from somewhere in the Midwest.

He’s brought his wife and children to the Big Apple

to see musicals and culture and tall buildings.

He’s come himself to tend to the blonde colleague

with the elliptically sculpted ass

he impregnated at a conference back in Kenosha.

The wife orders chicken Caesar salad

for the two to split—just like home! He tells her

he has never really cared for salad. He orders a steak, rare,

and lets the saline juices drip down his teeth.

 

She orders the steak, rare.

He orders a salad.

She sees no future.

 

Neither orders the salad

though it came highly recommended by their mutual friend.

They bond over how little they really care for him—

the friend. They live together for three and a half years

in a compact midtown apartment, before they return

to the very same French bistro on 52nd street,

where he gets down on one knee.

The mutual friend is not invited.

 

He complains about not being invited to the wedding.

He reaches under the table and grabs the other’s hand.

They both order the salad,

deftly spearing heirloom tomatoes

and quickly whisking forks to mouths

before champagne vinegar can stain

freshly pressed Oxford shirts.

They both spend the next week

sick in bed with food poisoning,

all the while still holding hands.

 

 

He has saved up a year’s allowance

to take her to the two-star restaurant. They wait

half an hour for the table.

The curt waiter pressures them to order the special;

they’re underwhelmed.

The table is cleared, the check is brought.

He wipes away tears before going home

and lies through braced teeth to anyone who asks.

 

She orders the tiramisu, his favorite,

and stares across the table. He used to order it

every year without fail.

She once poked fun at him for his lack of adventurism.

He asked, once you’ve found the perfect taste,

why would you want anything else?

She orders that same dessert every year

on what would be their anniversary.

 

They sit down at tables all throughout the city every night.

They bring cash, appetites,

impossible expectations. They eat,

visit immaculately clean bathrooms, pay, and leave.

They return home

and sneak into sleeping children’s rooms

to kiss milky foreheads.

They return to SoHo lofts

and leave trails of shirts, socks, and underwear

all the way to their rooms,

clawing at each other.

They return to empty homes

and read non-fiction by lamplight.

They regret desserts, swear off coffee,

make reservations for next weekend.

They grab at something they can’t name,

something lasting,

and instead find well-written menus,

and polished silverware.