Jonathan enters the restaurant grinning and sits down across from me.
Jonathan: Ready for our hot date?
Me: I know– look at us going out to dinner like regular adults who don’t have a baby!
Jonathan: I know! (Smiles)
We shuffle our silverware for a few seconds and sip from our water glasses. I pick up a menu and glance at it, then put it down.
Me: So… (I flounder for a moment, trying to think of something to say) Work was good today?
Jonathan: Yeah, today was good. Not too busy and everyone was in a pretty good mood.
Me: Sounds good.
We pause, smiling at each other. Neither of us says anything for several seconds.
Jonathan: (Pauses) It’s just so nice to be OUT.
Me: I know. It’s so exciting that he’s not here. I mean I miss him…
Jonathan: Obviously I miss him.
Me: Obviously. He was so cute when I left him with my dad. He was making the cutest…hold on, I took a picture, let me find it. (I scroll through my phone, looking for a photo I took of the baby). Here.
Jonathan: Oh, his face. God, he’s such a cute kid.
Me: I know. And this one. (I begin scrolling through photos). And this one when my dad was holding him. And some of the guys from his office. (scrolling)
Jonathan: Oh, send me that last one? The one where he’s smiling and holding onto the chair? I want to make it my phone wallpaper.
Me: I love that one. So adorable. I’ll send it to you.
Waiter enters, glancing at us glancing at our phones. I am immediately embarrassed.
The Waiter: Hi, can I start you off with something to drink?
Me: Yes, I’m so sorry! ( I quickly put away phone) I’ll have a…what is this, is this like a stout? (Waiter nods) I’ll have that.
Jonathan: Can I get a Malbec?
The waiter nods, writes down our orders, and leaves. We smile and stare at each other politely.
Jonathan: So. (Pauses awkwardly) This is a really nice place. Who told you about it again?
Me: (Sipping from water glass) I can’t remember. Isn’t it great?
Jonathan: (Pausing again) It’s great.
Me: Yeah. It seems pretty nice.
* * *
Jonathan stands at the kitchen counter, eating a container of yogurt. I am lying on the living room sofa, typing on my laptop.
Me: Did you get a chance to proofread that transcript I wrote of our date?
Jonathan: I did.
Me: Is it ok? Is there a lot of stuff I should fix?
Jonathan: I fixed a bunch of grammatical stuff.
I wait for him to continue. What I would always like for him to say is, “This is great! This is so poignant and hilarious and brilliant. You’re totally brilliant!” But a lot of times the things I have come up with are neither poignant, nor hilarious, nor brilliant, and Jonathan does not lie to me, which is why I make him proofread things. He will say things like, “It was good, sweetie. It drags on for a little bit longer than maybe it needs to, but it’s good. I fixed a few typos and you misspelled ’embarrassed’ a lot.”
Me: So is it not great?
Jonathan: You don’t think it’s a little depressing? Like we have nothing to talk about besides the baby?
Me: But on that specific date, isn’t that sort of how it went?
Jonathan: I mean I guess. It just seemed sort of pathetic. Like people will assume our marriage is in trouble. I guess maybe try to make it a little less…I don’t want to say boring, but less repetitive, maybe?
* * *
We sit quietly in the restaurant, both of us attired (as always) in dark black sunglasses and fitted leather trench-coats, our hair slicked back as we chew the olives from our dry martinis. An electronic tablet in Jonathan’s briefcase makes a “ping” sound, indicating that he’s got a new message. He removes the tablet from the briefcase and begins to read.
Jonathan: (reading) They’ll be here any minute. Get ready.
Me: I’m ready.
A group of men enter the restaurant, all of them wearing sunglasses and smoking cigarettes. The hostess at the front desk says, “Excuse me, you can’t smoke that in here” and the largest of the men, their leader, extinguishes the cigarette in the middle of her forehead. The hostess screams. All the people in the restaurant begin screaming. A frumpily-dressed manager comes in and says, “What’s going on here?” and a man with an eye-patch and a long red scar running up his cheek punches the manager in the face, cracking his glasses and sending him to the floor in a crumpled heap.
Me: (to the sunglass-wearing thugs) Leave them alone. You came for us and we’re both right here.
I take a valiant step toward them. I have a small pistol in a secret holster on my thigh but don’t like using it and will probably defeat these men using karate that I’ve learned from movies. I pull a bread dish off the table, throwing it as if it were a ninja star. It hits one of the men squarely in the neck, knocking him to the ground. Before the others can react, Jonathan has taken down another one, knocking him over the head with a bottle of cold-pressed olive oil in which, only moments ago, we’d been dipping our Focaccia bread. The glass shatters around the hapless thug as the oil covers him and he tries, desperately, to wipe pieces of oregano out of his eyes.
Head thug: You thought you could stop us?
Jonathan: We still think that.
I take down three additional men using umbrellas I pulled from the coat check while Jonathan hits the head thug in the face with a pecan pie. The thug’s face begins to swell, as he obviously has a severe nut allergy. Jonathan whips an epi-pen out of nowhere and holds it inches from the thug’s face.
Jonathan: Leave town. You have no business here.
Jonathan injects the thug with the epi-pen, stabbing it into his heart like they do in the Nicholas Cage movie “The Rock,” even though, for the record, that is not how you’re supposed to use an epi pen. We then jump through a plate glass window unharmed and land on our respective motorcycles.
* * *
Jonathan sits at his computer in sweatpants and an undershirt, reading the updated draft of the restaurant transcript.
Jonathan: Ok, so it doesn’t have to be all lies.
Me: But it’s not depressing. And we’re not just sitting around and talking about the baby, which was what you hated about the last one.
Jonathan: Yes, but there needs to be a halfway point between us having a boring conversation about the baby and us jumping through a plate glass window onto motorcycles.
Me: Ok, I can fix it. Give me a few minutes.
* * *
We sit opposite each other in the restaurant. Jonathan’s phone pings with a new message, which is the photo of the baby I have just sent him.
Jonathan: (Looking at phone) God, he’s so cute in this photo. (Pauses) I’m so glad he’s not here though.
Me: I know.
Jonathan: I miss him though. It’s hard not seeing him as often as I’d like to.
Me: That’s the downside of our amazing careers. There are dozens of men who would kill to play professional soccer for a living. Those two goals you scored on Thursday were unbelievable.
Jonathan: I know. I don’t want to seem ungrateful. (Three young boys suddenly run up to him, all wearing soccer uniforms that match the one that Jonathan is also wearing. They ask for autographs and he politely signs each of the boys’ foreheads.) But between my crazy schedule and your insane hours as a figure-skating coach…
Me: Which are getting more insane because I have a kid this year who hates music and insists on skating to books-on-tape.
Jonathan: Ugh, how frustrating. (A golden retriever approaches him, holding a piece of cardboard in its jaws and Jonathan autographs the cardboard.) Which books on tape? Like a Harry Potter?
Me: She wants to skate her audition piece to that Steve Jobs biography.
Jonathan: The Walter Issacson one? (I nod.) That’s going to be rough.
A baby cries somewhere else in the restaurant and both Jonathan and I wistfully bite our lips.
Me: It’ll be rough. But not as rough as missing him, sometimes.
The waiter approaches holding a small pad on which to jot down our order and Jonathan absentmindedly autographs it. He immediately realizes his mistake and apologizes only to have the waiter break into a wide grin and tell him that no, it’s fine, that those two goals he scored on Thursday were amazing and that, as a personal thank you, he (the waiter) would like to give us a plate of fried calamari for free.
* * *
Jonathan stares at the computer screen for what seems like forever.
Jonathan: Ok, so I liked this draft in theory because I’m a famous soccer player which, obviously, is very exciting.
Jonathan: But when I said it sounded a little boring, I didn’t mean you had to change everything about it. I just meant…I don’t know. Like maybe you can transcribe our actual conversation but just make it clear that we’re still happy.
Me: So you want me to take all the soccer stuff out?
Jonathan: I’m not saying I want you to take it out; I’m just saying it doesn’t really make sense in this particular piece.
Me: Ok. I’m going to take most of it out. Don’t be mad.
Jonathan: I won’t be mad.
* * *
We sit quietly in the restaurant, smiling at each other.
Jonathan: So (looks around)…this place is great. You picked a great place.
Me: It seems good so far.
We stare at each other, smiling, for several more minutes. We are a loving couple. Really loving. We really, really love each other, and yet we do not have anything to say that does not involve photos of the baby, scheduling things that involve the baby, relief that we’re not currently taking care of the baby, or telling stories about what happened recently when we were out with the baby. We are locked in a stand-off, not wanting to bring up the baby but desperately wanting to communicate with one another. But we love each other a lot and I would like to make that clear.
Jonathan: You look great tonight.
Me: Thanks. So do you.
Jonathan: (Pauses for several seconds before pulling out his smartphone) Sooooo…do you want to watch a bunch of really cute videos I made yesterday while he was crawling around?
And instead of saying anything, I smile and scoot my chair over so that we’re sitting side by side instead of across the table from one another. And he hits play and we turn the volume down so we don’t annoy the other people in the restaurant, and we laugh at a video of the baby trying to grab the dog’s tail, then at one of him pulling books off the bookshelf. We watch one of him eating, then one of him playing with the laces on my rain-boots.
Me: He’s a really cute baby.
Jonathan: He is, isn’t he? We’re very lucky.
We look back at the smartphone. Jonathan begins another video in which the baby is crawling while a loud Spanish soccer game blasts in the background. He’s crawling towards the camera as fast as he can, and I love him but am also so happy he’s not here. I’m so happy to have a night to myself–to think, to relax, to enjoy Jonathan’s company, even when we have nothing to talk about but how exhausted we are. Life is sometimes boring but that is ok. I watch the baby crawling toward us, and I smile, and in the background the soccer game is still blasting, and I can hear a man’s voice shouting, “Goooooooaaallll! Goooooooooooaallll!! Goooooooooooooooaaallll!!”
* * *
* * *
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