Katherine and her husband sat down to plates of cold spaghetti.
At the sight of the meal, she turned her nose up a little, and left her fork
dangling in the air, uninterested. Longingly, she gazed out the dining room
window toward some strawberry bushes growing in her next door neighbors
yard. Mark sat down across from her and began to eat, staring blankly at
the floor by his feet and piling food into his cheeks with muted grunts. Half
his plate was empty by the time Katherine managed to taste her first bite,
chewing the tasteless stuff, then pushing the plate away from her and into
the center of the table. She lay back in her chair, stiff, waiting for dinner to
be over. Mark ate faster and faster, sweating as his fork clinked against
the china plate and then against his front teeth in an a heightening rhythm.
When he finished he let out a cavernous belch and slumped forward,
satisfied. He took a minute, wiped his brow with a napkin, and got up to
clear the table, grabbing Katherine’s plate without saying a word, his gray
eyes cold and distant.
“How was the pasta, huh?” he mumbled while scrubbing
the dishes with his coarse, workman’s hands. “Was it good
Katherine did not answer, keeping her face and body tilted toward the strawberry bushes.
“Fine,” said Mark, turning as always to stomp upstairs
and into bed.
Rising with a start, Katherine shouted out, “It wasn’t
always like this, you know. We used to have great meals, Mark. Passionate meals. Don’t you remember?”
For a moment Mark looked ashamed. “Katherine please, I’m not young anymore. Those meals are gone.” “Couldn’t we try Mark? I need to be honest with myself: I’m lusting after other food. Something needs to change or I might start. . . eating someplace else. There, I said it.” “Katherine no. Don’t even think that.” “Then don’t leave me alone on this. Couldn’t we do something? Take one of those classes?” Mark wrung the ends of his shirt in his hands, clearly uncomfortable.
“You mean one of those cooking classes? That seems so embarrassing. Besides, I was never really good at the fancy things Katherine. I’m a spaghetti kind of guy.”
Wistful, Katherine nodded. “I know.” She was thinking of all the
wild, crazy foods she’d heard of from girlfriends, or in the street.
Sometimes, when Mark was already asleep, she’d flip around on the
television and catch glimpses of the cooking channel. She tried not to
watch - it was hard to piece together, since they had it scrambled so the
kids wouldn’t see it. But once they were using a skillet and a double boiler
in the same recipe! Katherine could tell even through the inverted colors.
Afterwards, she had to splash her mouth out with cold water before she
could get back to sleep. And sometimes, if their meals had been particularly bland, when Mark had finished much too quickly or even eaten with his eyes shut, when she felt like she just might burst, Katherine would
wait until Mark went off to work and then cook for herself. Usually - peering out through the kitchen window to make sure the neighbors weren’t watching - she made chocolate covered bananas. They tasted sweet, satisfying her in a way that meals with Mark never did anymore. Yet she couldn’t help thinking how much better they would taste if Mark had made them with her.
“Please Mark,” she said, standing their in the dining room confrontation, “I want it to be like the old days, before we had kids. Do you
remember the crazy places we used to have meals? That one time on the
park bench. . .”
Her tongue was beginning to tingle with the memory. “I’m just saying, I have needs too. I’m hungry Mark. So hungry.” Softening, Mark put his arm around her. “Alright Katherine,” he said, “Let’s take a class.” Later that week Katherine and Mark signed up for a course in
cooking at the local community college. Mark wanted “Steak Preparation
101," but Katherine won him over to “Sensuous Desserts for Beginners.”
On Thursday nights they left the kids with a babysitter and told them all
they were headed out golfing. Or having sex. Maybe someday later, after
the kids had grown up, Mark and Katherine would admit to them that they
had been cooking. So for a while they were having wonderful desserts.After each class they would come home, tuck the kids into bed and try out the techniques they had just learned in class. Lemon meringue, chocolate devil’s food, cherry cheesecake. Always before it had been birthday cake (vanilla with vanilla frosting) for every occasion. Now they had variety. Katherine would place each fork full in her mouth, chewing slowly, letting the sugar course through her body and pulsate in her veins. For the first time in a long while she was feeling fulfilled. No longer did she watch the cooking channel or make bananas by herself. But once the class ended, their meals again turned stale.
Katherine tried to sign them up for another semester, her mouth watering
as she filled out the form, but to her dismay she learned shortly after that
the community college was scheduled for demolition in order to make room
for a new meat packing facility. Katherine still chatted in the grocery lines with other women from “Sensuous Desserts.” From their blushing whispers
she learned about the experiments their husbands were cooking, moving beyond the range of the class into new territories. Always something exciting at the dinner table, these women said. Katherine tried to
smile. She was beginning to feel like Mark could never do anything
“Arlene’s husband makes her a new dessert every night,” Katherine said, desperate after a particularly unfulfilling dinner, her
Mark shrugged, looking helpless.
“You know,” she pleaded, “I’ve had boyfriends in college who could cook better than you.” Indignant, Mark stood up. “Fine, you want me to cook? I’ll cook.” Katherine’s remark had set something off in her husband’s mind.
Mark went into a mad frenzy and cooked tirelessly for hours. Katherine
waited, unmoving, at the dining room table, filled with dread and
anticipation. When he had finished Katherine sat at the center of a
bounty of desserts. At first she felt awed, overwhelmed, but as she went with her knife and fork to each cake or pie, she realized that each was something she had tasted before, and none was very good. For a
few moments she tried to hide the disappointment on her face, her gaze
involuntarily drifting to the strawberry bushes on the nearby lawn. She longed for something new - to satiate her hunger. But then she had a marvelous idea. Her whole body began to tingle. She said with a little smile, “I know what could make this dessert even better.” Katherine instructed, “Mark, climb up on the table and lay down.” Eager not to be outdone by past boyfriends or dessert experiences, Mark obeyed.
Katherine positioned around him on the table and on top of his body and even covering his face all the mediocre desserts he had made - all the lemon meringues and chocolate devil’s foods. She ran, briefly disappearing out the back door, only to reappear a moment later holding a freshly picked strawberry from the bush in their neighbor’s yard. She place it on top of the pile and took a step back to delay her pleasure. Then, with a huge, gaping mouth, she leaned over and ate up in one quick bite all the desserts and her husband along with them. Finally satisfied, she licked the cream and blood off of her lips, the two of which together went quite nicely.