The dinner party

Photograph by Gilbert và George, “The Shadow of the Glass” (1972) / Courtesy Lehmann Maupin Gallery và Sonnabend Gallery
On occasion, the two women went to lớn lunch and she came trang chủ offended by some pettiness. Và he would say, “Why vị this to yourself?” He wanted to keep her from being hurt. He also wanted his wife và her friend lớn drift apart so that he never had lớn sit through another dinner buổi tiệc nhỏ with the friend and her husband. But after a few months the rift would inevitably heal and the friendship return khổng lồ good standing. He couldn’t blame her. They went back a long way và you get only so many old friends.

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He leaped four hours ahead of himself. He ruminated on the evening in future retrospect và recalled every gesture, every word. He walked back lớn the kitchen & stood with a new drink in front of the fridge, out of the way. “I can’t vày it,” he said.

“Can’t vị what?”

The balls were up in the air: water slowly coming lớn a boil on the stove, meat seasoned on a plate sitting on the butcher block. She stood beside the sink dicing an onion. Other vegetables waited their turn on the counter, bright và doomed. She stopped cutting long enough khổng lồ lift her arm to lớn her eyes in a tragic pose. Then she resumed, more tearfully. She wasn’t drinking much of her wine.

“I can predict everything that will happen from the moment they arrive lớn the little kiss on the cheek goodbye and I just can’t goddam bởi it.”

“You could stick your tongue down her throat instead of the kiss goodbye,” she offered casually as she continued to dice. She was game, his wife. She spoke to lớn him in bad taste freely và he considered it one of her best qualities. “But then that would surprise her, I guess, not you.”

“They come in,” he said, “we take their coats. Everyone talks in a big hurry as if we didn’t have four long hours ahead of us. We self-medicate with alcohol. A lot of things are discussed, different issues. Everyone laughs a lot, but later no one can say what exactly was so witty. Compliments on the food. A couple of monologues. Then they start to lớn yawn, we start to yawn. They say, ‘We should think about leaving, huh?,’ & we politely look away, like they’ve just decided to take a crap on the dinner table. Everyone stands, one of us gets their coats, peppy goodbyes. We all say what a lovely evening, vị it again soon, blah-blah-blah. Và then they leave & we talk about them & they hit the streets và talk about us.”

“What would make you happy?” she asked.

“A blow job.”

“Let’s wait until they get here for that,” she said.

She slid her finger along the blade to free the clinging onion. He handed her her glass. “Drink your wine,” he said. She took a sip. He left the kitchen.

“Wait for a little opening,” he said, “a little silence, & then he’ll say, he’ll be very coy, he’ll say, ‘Why don’t you tell them?’ & she’ll say, ‘No, you,’ and he’ll say, ‘No, you,’ and then she’ll say, ‘O.K., O.K., I’ll tell them.’ and we’ll take in the news like we’re genuinely surprised—like, holy shit, can you believe she’s knocked up, someone run down for a Lotto ticket, someone tell Veuve Clicquot, that bastard will want to know! and that’s just the worst, how predictable our response lớn their so-called news will be.”

“Well, O.K.,” she said. “When that happens, why don’t you suggest they have an abortion?”

He chewed his ice and nodded. “That would shake things up,” he said, “wouldn’t it?”

“Tell them we can bởi it right here with a little Veuve Clicquot và one of the bedroom hangers.”

“Delightful,” he said. “I’m in.”

The kitchen was small. He would have done better lớn remain in one of the other rooms, but he wanted to lớn be with her. She was sautéing the garlic và the onion.

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“He’s O.K.,” he said. “They’re both O.K. I’m just being a dick.”

“We vì chưng this, what—at most, once or twice a year. I think you can handle it. And when they have the baby—”

“Oh, Christ.”

“When they have the baby, we’ll see even less of them.”

“Holiday cards. Here’s our little sun-chine. See our little sun-chine? Christ.”

“You aren’t the one who’s going khổng lồ have to go khổng lồ the baby shower,” she said.

“How much you wanna bet they buy a stroller?”

“A stroller?”

“A stroller.”

“A stroller,” she said. “To cart the baby around.”

He put cheese on a cracker. “For to lớn cart the baby around in, yes,” he said.

“And you, if you had a baby, there’d be no stroller, right, because it would be oh so predictable? Absolutely no stroller?”

“I was thinking we could duct-tape the child,” he said. “It would be cheaper.”

“Like a BabyBjörn, but duct tape.”


“Would the baby face in or out?”

“If it was sleeping, in. Not sleeping, kind of kicking its feet, wanting to lớn see the world, duct-tape it out, so it has a view.”

“Allowing the child lớn be curious,” she said. “Feeding its desire to lớn marvel at this new experience called life.”

“Something like that.”

“The child must be so relieved that I’m barren,” she said.

He left the kitchen. He stood in the living room with his drink, listening to the sounds of her cooking.

They should have invited Ben & Lauren, too, like last time. Ben & Lauren were more his friends. With Ben & Lauren there, time didn’t move as it moved in hospital waiting rooms and the Midwestern churches of his youth. But she had wanted it just the four of them this time, probably so that they could more freely revel in their big news, and there was a limit khổng lồ how many times he could say, unprompted, “Hey, should we invite Ben và Lauren?” At least he was doing Ben and Lauren a favor.

He returned to lớn the kitchen. “When they come in,” he said, “let’s make them vì chưng a shot, both of them.”

“A shot?”

“Of tequila.”

“Her, too?”

“Both of them.”

“To sort of . . . Fortify the baby.”

“We’ll force them somehow,” he said. “I’ll figure it out.”

“Better hurry,” she said.

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“All this talk of folic acid & prenatal vitamins. Give me a break. Bởi they think Attila the Hun got his daily dose of folic acid when he was in the womb? Napoleon?” She was going back và forth across the kitchen while he kept his drink close. “I could go on.”

“George Washington,” she said, “a Founding Father.”

“See? I could go on. Moses.”

“I don’t think she’s going to be willing to bởi a shot,” she said.

“We trick her somehow. Tell her it’s full of prenatal vitamins, và she shoots it down.”