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My wife tells me she dated an ambidextrous veteran who wasn’t much of a talker. “I had a thing for vets,” she admits, dragging her sleeve through the tzatziki.
“That’s great baby. You’re a blazing mess.”
Her underarm jiggles as she pops pita bread into her mouth. “Don’t play jealous, Randall,” she says. A tiny white bead of dip lands on her blouse. Above the left breast. Like an upturned nipple. I’m telling you what I see so I don’t have to make this stuff up.
The waiter takes orders from the booth behind her. His gaze darts towards my wife. She does this windmill thingy with her hands when she talks.
I move the red and yellow condiments out of my dear windmill’s way and glance around the room to see if my wife is the loudest, most active mammal currently occupying a booth. My suspicion is confirmed when the waiter looks at her again.
“Can you stop that?” I whisper.
“Stop what?” she exclaims with curious, not-whispering eyebrows. Her blouse glistens when it moves.
“Stop making a commotion, please? You’re attracting attention.” I address the blouse, the voice, the wife in unison.
She freezes mid-dip, and gives me the once-over used to assess unexpected kitchen cockroaches; the little ones get a pass while the hefty roach gets a heel. I imagine the crunching sound, the fast death.
“Maybe you should relax and stop being so anxious. What’s the problem? Try some tzatziki.”
I gesture towards the waiter with the help of my head.
“Oh him?” my wife laughs. “He has a glass eye.”
The waiter slides toward our table. “Do you need more water?” he asks.
Tzatziki dries like toothpaste on her lips, but she assures him we’re fine. “I was just telling my husband about your eye.” Her voice is warm, intimate, ready for S’mores.
The waiter’s eyes seem to argue amongst themselves— one eye tracks my darling’s face while the other eye stands in salute to an invisible monument.
“Yeah, it’s not my real eye,” he says.
“Tell my husband how you got it.”
“I bought it. For money,” the waiter admits.
“How do you know this?” I ask my wife.
“I was there. At the knife fight. In the bowling alley parking lot. When was that?” She scans the waiter’s face for a calendar date.
He shuts his eyes and thinks a minute. I wonder if the closed glass eye feels different from the closed real eye.
“2003. The Monster League Championship.”
“Of course!” My wife’s palm slams the table top. “2003! What a year. I was dating Larry that year, a monster, a true fiend in the sack. Did you ever recover your real eye?”
My wife leans over, whispers–“it was a knife fight”– in that just-between-the-two-of-us voice.
“Larry. You never mentioned Larry,” I whisper back.
“Nonsense. Larry was not even a french fry in the grand scheme of things. Besides, I know how crazy you get over my exes. Effusions of sudden envy. Over nothing, baby, nothing. Wildflowers and weeds blossom over graves.”
The waiter lifts the white paper napkin from under my wife’s elbow and proceeds to gently dab the tszatziki from her chin and the crevice of her lips. The dabbing occurs in slow motion.
“Mmmm, thanks Ricardo. I’m starving—when will our gyros be ready? Starving is an understatement. Ravenous, really. I am straight-up ravenous. Like a raven, you know?”
How to convey the disappointment I feel when faced with my wife’s devastating etymological linkage and the waiter cleaning her chin soft-porn style? My feelings pale near the fire of watching him lean down and swipe that tiny white nipple from her blouse. My nipple. Her mess. His hand.
“Good god! What’s next? If even a waiter could see it.”
“See what? He can see whatever. He has a glass eye, you know. He’s not blind.”
“That’s obvious. Our marriage simmers in this wood veneer booth whereupon you invite another man to fondle your ersatz nipple?”
My wife’s face could launch a thousand commercial cruises. She reaches across the table for my hand but there’s a fork clenched in my fist and the fork touches nothing.
She wraps her hand around my hand holding the fork. A fist with a fork inside it.
“Is that what this is about?”
“Of course,” I lie. “Over-exposure, public nipples…”
She smiles and squeezes my hand, then pumps it twice. My wife knows better. This is not about her nipples or my nipples or the knife fight or the waiter making love to her blouse and her body with his single functioning eye. This is about a fork and two hands tangled, the monsters we meet and the monsters we make up, a marriage.