One of the important things to remember as a husband is that sometimes, you simply cannot win. There’s no right answer, no ‘Get Out of Sleeping on the Couch Free’ card, and you can’t hide your face under your shirt and pretend the whole world simply went away for a while.
Well, you can. But when the world comes back, it might return with a rolling pin across the chops. The world is kind of cliche that way, sometimes.
Take this evening, for instance. I returned home around eight o’clock, after a long hard day of working, shoveling and chauffeuring the dog around town. That’s right, folks. Living the dream, I am.
“The aroma was somewhere between aged head cheese and week-old lint pulled from a water buffalo’s navel.”
Anyway, I finally made it back and I was starving. Living the dream will work up an appetite, apparently. Or maybe it was the banging my head on the steering wheel while I was stuck in traffic. Or all that weeping softly under my desk at work. Whatever it was, it had me awfully hungry. So I went scavenging.
This is not an uncommon practice around our house. Weekdays are a whirlwind of busy schedules, unexpected emergencies and regular evening commitments. We plan ‘together time’ for the weekends, and it usually includes a meal or two together, but during the week? Fuggedaboudit. The odds that my wife, myself and edible unspoiled food should coincidentally convene in the house at the same time — and at an hour appropriate for an evening meal — are so astronomically small as to be negligible. I might as well drive home with my head out the window and my mouth hanging open, hoping globs of creamy clam chowder will magically fall from the sky to sate my hunger.
No. Pigeon poop is not the same thing. Trust me on this one.
So, I fended for myself. Opening the fridge, I saw three viable options — lunchmeat for a sandwich, milk for a bowl of cereal, and a Conundrum. Note the capital ‘C’. We’ll get back to that.
Cereal seemed the optimal choice — less work than a sandwich, safer than a Conundrum — but on further investigation, I found the date on the milk carton to be today. Sometimes milk lasts until its specified date, and sometimes it goes just the tiniest little bit tangy. There was certainly enough left for a hearty bowl of Cardboard Chex, so I opened the lid and took a deep investigatory sniff of the contents.
Eventually, I regained consciousness.
I’m pretty sure the substance in the carton could no longer be legally classified as ‘milk’. I don’t know what the hell happened to it, whether the goop in there drank it or killed it or scared it away or what, but the ‘Best By’ date was clearly a lie. Maybe it actually said ‘Beast By’, because it had most certainly gone from milk to monster. The aroma was somewhere between aged head cheese and week-old lint pulled from a water buffalo’s navel.
No, I don’t how a water buffalo would get lint in its navel. Or whether it even has a navel. For the purposes of this discussion, you can pull lint from any old water buffalo orifice you like, provided it’s been in there at least a week. Whatever makes you happy. Freak.
Clearly, the milk was no longer an option. So I returned to the fridge to ponder the Conundrum, which came clad in the form of a medium-sized plastic Tupperware bowl. Inside were leftovers from Sunday’s dinner; the missus had made a very tasty rice and chicken dish. Indian spices. Bits of veggies. Good stuff.
The problem was, we’d scarfed down so much of it the night before, there was only enough left for one serving. Either I eat it, selfishly leaving her to fend among the lunchmeats and canned soups and rancid-milks-that-I-neglected-to-dispose-of-properly of the world. Or I leave it and eat something else — thereby suggesting to her that I didn’t enjoy the dish nearly as much as I assured her I did. Two paths fraught with trouble, each with the potential for hot water, cold shoulders and lukewarm relations for the foreseeable future. What’s a poor hungry doofus to do?
I stood for a while, staring at the Conundrum and letting the fridge buffet me with its chilly, brain-stimulating air. And then I did what I thought I ought to do, the only thing I could do, and something that I should do, before the cold refrigerator air shriveled my hungers up inside me. I made the sandwich.
My reasoning was threefold. First, it was the gracious thing to do. The contents of that bowl were by far the tastiest morsels in the house, and the super lady who caused their deliciousness to be should have first crack at the spoils. Or second crack. Maybe third crack, if my crack last night counts. At any rate, she deserved a crack. I got home first, so it was my crack. But I was willing to give her my crack. We’re like that, as a couple. We’re not stingy with our cracks. I’m sure, if it were her crack in that situation, she’d gladly give me her crack. Mi cracka es su cracka. And so forth.
Second, the last time we’d had leftovers-for-one after a weekend meal, I took them. And the last thing you want to do, as a husband, is to get in trouble for the same thing two times in a row. Look, I know there’s a ravenous man-eating tiger behind both doors. I’m no fool. But I opened Door Number One last time. Let’s at least let the other slavering fang-beast have a shot at me, eh? It’s only fair. Ravenous man-eating tigers are people, too, you know.
Finally — and frankly, most importantly — I checked the date on the lunchmeat, and it said tomorrow. My sniffer’s not going to be right again for at least a week; better to finish up the sandwich slices now, before I have to spot-check them, too. One involuntary seizure at a time, thank you very much.
So, I made a sandwich, and I ate it. Just as I was returning my plate to the sink, my wife arrived home — and immediately mentioned how hungry she was. No surprise there; it was getting late, and she probably hadn’t eaten since lunch. As she approached the kitchen, we had the conversation that I knew we’d have, but still really very much didn’t want to have:
Her: Hey, did you eat?
Me: Um… yeah. Just finished.
Her: Oh, no problem. Say, did you have the leftover chi-
As she launched into what I imagine was the word ‘chicken’ — because we don’t have ‘chickpea spread’, ‘Cheeseburger Helper’ or ‘chipotle chili chimichangas’ in the house, to the best of my knowledge — she swung open the refrigerator door. And there she saw the leftover chicken and rice, uneaten. Seeing my near-term sex life flash before my eyes — or maybe those were hallucinations from the bad milk mojo — I desperately tried to spin the situation:
‘No, of course not. It was so tasty and wonderful, I left it for you. My sweetie darling snugglelumps.‘
It was too late. She wasn’t listening any more. I could see the words ping and clatter away from her like gnats bouncing off a light bulb. She gradually worked up this amazing look — hurt and incredulous and confused and appalled all at once; really a work of expressionary art — as she turned toward me. Finally, she faced me square on and said:
‘You… you hated it!‘
I assured her that I didn’t. She told me that I did. I said no, I really liked it. Loathed it, did I mean? No. I didn’t mean. How could I mean? Who would mean something so mean?
I’m pretty sure she was just toying with me, having a bit of sassy fun after a long day at the office. Still, I couldn’t risk it. It really was a tasty meal, and I simply could not leave the idea in her head that I didn’t like her cooking. Besides the emotional rift it might cause, what the hell would we eat on weekends? There’s only so much lunchmeat and rancid milk one man can take. Somehow or another, I had to let her know how much I liked her dish.
So I ate it.
I waited for her to go upstairs to get out of her work clothes, grabbed a fork and shoveled that bowl of food down, fast as I could. Which wasn’t especially fast, what with half a pound of turkey on rye with swiss and pickles clogging up the pipes. But by god, I got it down. And kept it down, too. Because not eating your wife’s food is only the second-worst message you can send about her cooking.
Still, here I am in trouble again. With the chicken gone, the lunchmeat eaten and the milk mutated, all she had for dinner was the last stale rice cake and some powdered lemonade mix. And I’m sleeping on the couch again — which is probably for the best, because my stomach’s not feeling so good after two full dinners and a big whiff of Sour McCheesycurds back there. I don’t see what I possibly could have done differently. Yet here I am in the dog house. Again.
Next time we have leftovers for one, I’m burying the bowl in the backyard, saying it was stolen and ordering a dozen pizzas. It might cost a little more — and I could break a water main if I’m not careful — but it’s still easier than walking this tightrope. Now somebody bring me a Tums and the sheets for the fold-out bed. I’ve got a doggie bag hangover to sleep off over here.Permalink | 3 Comments