Don’t Look

            Brian and Gwen sit across from each other, enveloped in the smell of grease. Brian sits forward. Gwen eats, slowly, deliberately. Brian takes a few more bites. They don’t speak over the blare of the oldies music. He glances at his wife occasionally; she ignores him. He’s now cleaned his plate of his double burger and order of fries, but he’s left a pickle, half a carrot stick, and a small crust of bread. He folds the paper lining the basket to shield the leavings.

            He sits, his elbows on the table, curved over the basket on his plate. Gwen eats her large order of fries, gulps from her second super-large-sized Pepsi. Then she takes another bite of her bacon double cheesey burger. She chews.

            Brian glances up involuntarily and then immediately looks down at his plate, silently praying, Oh no. He’d had an impression of dark eyes, lips, long hair…

            His wife shoots him a bitter look, her lips thin. They sit surrounded by deafening music, the din of orders taken, put together and served—clanking of pots, clinking of dishes, water running. Gwen flags down a waitress and orders a second large basket of curly fries. She finishes her sandwich then, after disgorging a ketchup bottle over the lot, she chugs methodically through the fresh basket of fries. A smear of red takes its ease alongside her mouth.

            Gwen suddenly thrusts out her hand and snatches away the paper lining Brian’s basket, revealing the pickle, piece of carrot, and bread crust. She devours them. She stares at the food being brought to the next table.

            Please. No, Brian prays. Don’t look.

            Gwen orders two double fudge brownie super duper banana splits, with extra whipped cream. “What are you going to have?” she shouts, her eyes hard.

First published in Rain Bird, 31:85, 2011.

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