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Dinner Time

July 10, 2013

“I don’t want to say anything.”

“Are you mad?”

“I just don’t have anything to say.”

Quentin’s jaw tensed and he stared at his plate. Carol looked past him at the couple dining at the next table. They were laughing and flushed with pleasure and wine. Quentin took a bite of potatoes and then laid his fork down.

“How is everything?”

“Huh?” Quentin looked up to see the waiter. “Oh, everything’s fine.”

“I would like a box,” Carol said.

“I can do that,” the waiter said before disappearing.

“You barely touched it,” Quentin said.

“I’m not really hungry.”

Quentin sighed and pushed a pea into his mashed potatoes. An awkward silence settled between them as Carol watched the couple behind Quentin caress each other across the table.

“Is this really how it’s going to be?” Quentin wondered.

 “What?” Carol asked with a flat voice.

“This. Us. I mean, what’s happened to us? All of a sudden I feel like my dad, like I should be hiding in the garage because my wife has nothing to say to me.”

“Jesus Christ, Quentin. Don’t be so dramatic. I just had a bad day, okay?”

“Okay, so tell me about it. I’m your husband.”

“I told you, I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to go home and go to bed.”

“Every day’s a bad day lately.”

“What does that mean?”

“You don’t ever talk to me anymore. You just sit in a sort of glum silence like you’re waiting for it to be over. You could at least tell me what’s wrong.”

“I’m sorry my sadness is not to your expectations. I’ll try to do better next time.”

“Jesus, Carol.” He rubbed his face. “I thought—I thought this was supposed to be a partnership and you’re—you’re leaving me out in the cold.”

Quentin’s voice was shaking and his eyes watered. Carol pulled her attention away from the loving couple.

“I don’t know what you want from me, Quentin. I’m fucking depressed. I hate my life. I hate my job. Every decision I make is the wrong one. I can’t just put that all to the side just because it’s dinnertime.”

“Every decision?”

“Oh, for God’s sake! This is exactly why I don’t want to say anything—”

“A box for the lady.” The waiter appeared from nowhere brandishing a white paper box with a flourish. To Quentin: “Were you ready for a box?”

“No. I’m okay.”

“Would you like to look at our dessert menu? The tiramisu is amazing.”

Quentin glanced at Carol. She was looking past him at the couple in love.

“I think we’re okay. I’ll just take the check.”

Quentin dug the pea out of the potatoes with his fork and rolled it across the plate while the waiter shoveled the contents of Carol’s plate into the white paper box. The waiter set it beside her hand like a present. She smiled at him.

“I’ll be back with the check.”

Quentin studied his wife’s face, her sullen expression. She wouldn’t look at him. He drew the napkin away from his lap and covered his plate. He watched a large family being seated across the dining room while Carol stared at the couple at the next table.

“I’ll just leave this here.” The waiter set the check down next to Quentin.

He studied the check, verifying its accuracy before pulling out his wallet and laying down his credit card. He took a sip of water and looked at his wife. She had her phone out and was deeply engrossed.

“I read today,” Quentin said with forced airiness, “that they’re coming out with a new eyePhone next month.”

“Oh.” Carol didn’t look up.

“It’s gonna have a bigger screen and better touch capabilities.”

“Neat.”

Quentin sighed.

“Here you go, folks.” The waiter set the bill down with Quentin’s credit card. “Thanks for coming in. Come back soon.”

Carol looked up and smiled at the waiter.

“Thanks,” she said.

Quentin stared at the check. In the line allotted for the tip he wrote “0”.

“Ready?” he said.

The ride home was equally tense. Quentin drove while Carol stared into the blue light from her phone. When they got home, Carol went to the bedroom. Quentin stared absently at the TV while comedians tried in vain to make him laugh. It was just before midnight by the time he went to the bedroom.

He crept in quietly and took his clothes off in the dark. He could tell by her breathing, that Carol was not asleep. Nevertheless, he tried to be as quiet as possible and slowly got under the covers beside her. He stared into the darkness of the ceiling for a minute or two.

“Do you regret marrying me?” he said quietly.

“Yes,” came the reply.

There was a moment of silence.

“I’m sorry,” he said meekly.

“Quentin, it’s not you. I don’t regret marrying you. I—I regret you marrying me. I just feel—I feel so fucked up all the time and I just can’t seem to get happy, you know? I’m sorry that you have to live with me.”

“Jesus Christ, Carol. You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Quentin turned on his side and stared at her silhouette in the darkness. “I would rather live with a sad you than a happy anyone else. I love you.”

Carol was quiet for a moment.

“I don’t know why. I’m not any good.”

“I don’t know why you say that. I would’ve never married you if you weren’t any good. You’re the best thing in my life and lately—lately I feel like you’ve been—I don’t know—pulling away.”

“I’m depressed, Quentin. And I don’t know what to do about it.”

“You don’t have to go through it alone. That’s why I’m here. That’s why we’re married: so we can help each other when things get shitty. Just don’t shut me out because I need you.”

“Oh, fuck, Quentin. God help me, I need you too. I need you to be patient with me.”

She moved across the bed and snuggled against his shoulder. He could feel her tears on his skin and he pulled her close.

“I’m here, baby,” he said and kissed the top of her head. “I’m here.”

He stared at the ceiling. Carol’s breathing became steadier and deeper. Quentin smiled and joined her in slumber.

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