Meals (short story)


The air was cold when we broke up. That night she had said she was never going to be ready to have children, and as she inhaled, I could see the twinkle in her eyes, the twinkle I used to love, die out.

I walked back from the restaurant when it was just beginning to bustle. Inside the restaurant it had always been alive and nurturing. The warm smells of the food enticed me most. They always evoked a movement in my memory from tasting in each bite of pasta, the garlic, with its appeal coming from its pure potency, to tasting the onion, its appeal coming from its sweetness. But the restaurant was also a bright, jolly place with lots of conversation at other tables and plenty of rich wines.

That night we dined at their outdoor tables. We had dated for three months and each month become closer. On that hiking trip our first month we shared our love of the outdoors, and seeing a bear from far off was scary and thrilling, both at once. That antiquing trip I wanted the second month didn’t work so well, and the old photographs and solid furniture I loved seemed boring to her. No matter. That third month we visited a local chocolate factory, and their product was sweet and rich and seemed to contain every flavor that could be had within it, and we both loved it.

That night the conversation was on a topic we had been discussing on and off for a while, that of children. She always said when she could feel freest, she would then feel most charitable. It was a formula that worked, at least in my experiences with her. It was feeling constrained that made her uncomfortable, and I could understand why: everything she did spoke to how independent she was, and I certainly found that independence attractive.

She didn’t eat much out there. My meal, on the other hand, was a tribute to the true wealth of the restaurant. I began with cold fresh oysters and white wine. Both the oysters and the wine had faintly metallic tastes that complemented the other, and prepared my palate for the pasta in a rich garlic butter sauce that tasted more of the herbs used than the heaviness which underlay each bite. Asparagus that was given to me on the side was a rich green color with an exquisite flavor. Nothing was added to it; wholly natural, its flavors were the best I tasted that night. I wrapped up with a salad that was accented by red onions and gave a wonderful sweet and crunchy accent to my experience. She had some breadsticks, some pasta with a simple basil tomato sauce and a slice of chocolate cake before we spoke. I felt afterwards that her lack of an appetite that night might have signaled to me that something was amiss, but I eventually dismissed that thought.

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