Everyday I used to ask him if he’d be home for dinner and everyday he’d say he would. And though most of the time he wasn’t, I’d still believe him (because sometimes he would show up—with red roses and laughter and wine—and I’d tell myself, what if he comes tonight?). So every afternoon I’d cook and every evening I’d set the table for two and wait until I couldn’t stay up any longer. On most nights I’d wake to find him already in bed with me, and the dinner I’d made still on the table.
On the eve of our last anniversary, he said, let’s eat out—and so I dusted off my slingback heels and wore my red dress and perched on his arm. But he had only just sat me at our table and the spring rolls were yet to be served when his phone rang and he left and never came back that night.
Sitting at that table and staring into the candlelight, I imagined—he was home and I was in the kitchen. “La Vie en Rose” was playing on the radio above the fridge. I had my apron on, and I was slicing onions and mincing garlic to sauté. I set them aside and picked up a carving knife, small for its kind but newly sharpened and heavy in my hand. With a quick thrust I buried the blade in my chest, cutting through bone and cartilage, carving out my heart, which I placed on the cutting board. I sliced it and diced it, felt the flat, cold steel riding forward and back and down, the edge clack, clack, clacking against the wood while La Môme Piaf sang of love. I sautéd the garlic and onion in olive oil and threw the bits of my heart into the pan, adding hoisin sauce, pepper, salt. I took it off the fire and served it to him, garnished with a twist of orange peel and a sprig of basil, on a plate of Blue Danube china. He considered it as he did his Cuban figurados, his vintage Chablis, his gorgeous girls Friday—with the senses of a connoisseur. With a fork he brought a morsel to his lips and took a tentative bite—then gobbled up the rest of the dish like a barbarian, grinning up at me with dark sauce dribbling from the sides of his mouth.
I could not shake the image out of my mind—that was when I decided I never wanted to dine with this man again.