Mary Anderson Parks @ 2014


Today I spent the whole day watching television. I was dizzy when evening dropped and shadows fell and he telephoned and I sat very still and listened to twenty-two rings. He doesn’t give up easily. He has even invited someone for dinner and who will prepare it? Oh yes, he thought of that and called in some service, one of the new things in the world, two women who will bring it ready to heat up in the microwave. The modern world. That is why I watched television all day, sitting here in fragile shock, staring at the screen with all those people flashing by and ads, hard to tell the ads from whatever the rest of it is. I wanted to be in touch with the world and sometimes I spoke back to them, softly, not to interrupt but to add my view of things and they went on quite heedless of what I thought or said, so after a few hours, or minutes maybe, I was quiet and sank back into the cushions. I was rigid at first, alert, on the edge of my seat, hearing the woman and man talk to each other with such eagerness and toothy smiles about every subject. Nothing is taboo, not anymore, but no, that is not true. They do not talk of what interests me. Even sex, though it is spoken of, is not real to them. They know the problems, weird, strange things, like people with gender dysphoria. I don’t think I have that. I still know the joy of coming together and fucking, making love like the two animals we are, and that is probably why he doesn’t give up on me even though I have given up so much and am not really normal I suppose, but I defy anyone to tell me this was normal, any of it, what I saw on the screen today. Now it is blank and still and I am still not blank. I sit here waiting, for what?

The woman and man he is bringing home to dinner, how brave he is to do that. She is a colleague of his. I have no colleagues. Only the gardener. He does not come on Fridays. I think this must be Friday and now I am in the bath washing myself for this dinner party and I want to wash my mind of all that poured into it today. It was a mistake to think I could become conversant with the world that way, and able to converse with people who are in it. He and she will have been at work together all day. Odd, isn’t it, why would they want to continue on into the evening? A way of avoiding me, maybe. Maybe he will begin to bring people, these or other ones, every night, and those two women, “Cook-a-Lot” or whatever they call themselves, will come bursting in with dreadful things to put in the microwave. If it is meat I will not eat it. He does not know yet that I am never going to eat meat again. I will not eat flesh. I do not want to be eaten and I will not eat other beings. There! Isn’t that a principle for you? I am still good at coming up with principles, but I know it is best not to inflict them on the dinner party

I could take little chunks of meat and flip them across the table at her, this colleague. See what she does! I could flip grease onto her silk blouse. I feel sure she will wear a silk blouse and a suit, a business suit, and pantyhose, and shoes with heels, and I would love to go barefoot and run through the garden and then stick the dirty soles of my feet in their faces above the coffee table. I am not ready for this, I will never be, so I might as well put on the dress he hung on the closet door for me. His favorite, he said, the one with whooping cranes on the skirt. I like it too, and it is sweet of him to like what I like and not put me in a straitjacket. Or a bulletproof one. But there will be no shooting, I hope, at this dinner party.

How wonderful that we have no gun in the house. One of us might be dead by now.

My skin does not wrinkle, no matter how long I stay here in the bath, but I must get dressed and wait. I hear the cook-a-lot ladies in the kitchen. He gave them a key. I am not trusted with keys.

. . . . . .

She is in love with my husband. That shook me so that I behaved quite well. I simply smiled and folded my hands and ate little and flipped nothing or no one. I didn’t even have the desire. She looked so pathetically eager to impress everyone, even me. Perhaps he has told them nothing about me. They seemed to care very little what I do or don’t do. They asked me no questions about how I spend my days. They talked shop. They talked of grants and contracts and computers and I hesitated to intrude. My question was, what exactly is it that you do, all of you? I’ve forgotten. But I asked it in a whisper, to myself, while they were laughing about a secretary they find exasperating.

Marcie, the woman’s name is. The colleague. She got pieces of meat stuck in her teeth and used her tongue to try to loosen them when she thought no one was looking. She was dressed as I thought she would be and it was hard not to stare at her pantyhose. She kept crossing her legs and making swishing sounds. But they are not lovely legs. Most of her extra weight is in her legs and her rear end. She is repulsive if you look at her long. But she adores him. Even though she has a husband of her own. Her husband joined in the joking. She talks to him about work and he knows the names of all the people.

He looked lonely though, in between the bursts of laughter, and once I leaned across the table and asked him if he would like some pickles. It would be no trouble at all, I told him. I could go to the refrigerator myself and look for them. I remembered my mother always set out a dish of dark green pickles. It’s nice to remember one’s mother. He said yes, he thought so too. His mother used to set out a bowl of cottage cheese, no matter what the dinner was. Mine too, I said. And then we found out we were both from Ohio. Most people are, I told him. That’s a thing I have noticed. It must have been a very crowded state before we all left. There was a silence then, one where the angel is passing by, and I held my breath until Marcie broke it by telling another secretary story. She kept her eyes on John all the time. She seemed impatient with her own husband, as if he were an annoyance, like a handbag you want to be rid of but can’t find a suitable or safe place to leave it. She looked at me enviously when John filled my plate for me. Her husband barely knew how to fill his own plate. He slopped beet juice on the lace tablecloth. I told him it was indestructible. Not to worry. I was glad he had done it and not I. John beamed at me while I comforted her husband by saying those things that are true. It is hard to destroy lace. I could have talked about that more. Holes are hard to destroy. You cannot really destroy a hole, you can fill it up but underneath it is there, waiting to be a hole again. It is clever of lace to sprinkle itself with holes in that intricate way and then to be lovely. I felt lovely too, all bathed and clean and perfumed and with her husband admiring my whooping cranes. He saw me see him stare at them and then admitted how fascinating they are. I liked the husband. It would be nice to have him come and visit by himself.


One response to “CHAPTER 3 – THE DINNER PARTY

  1. Celeste

    This made me smile. I enjoy her perceptions.

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