When I wander off the 15th fairway and onto the patio of Janet’s bungalow, and into their living room, it’s not to do all that stuff that everyone assumes is going on. Yes, Bob, Janet’s husband, is frequently away,and I wouldn’t blame you for thinking the same thing. It makes us laugh, Janet and me, because you can see their patio from the course and into every room, and when I walk in, every curtain is wide open. It’s Janet’s attempt at transparency, to show the world, or at least the membership, “Look. No carrying on here. No fucking of any kind. See for yourself.”
Angela, my wife, knew I dropped in on Janet and didn’t seem to mind because I came home stuffed. On those days, I wouldn’t make a mess in the kitchen cooking up something that maybe she’d scarf down in the time it takes to make her diluted instant coffee which she lightened with that corn derived instant creamer.
“I just like the way the coffee tastes,” she’d say. We met going to college at Perdue, and that was how coffee was made when we were kids. Angela was from Iowa and me from Ohio. It was all the things we had in common that made it so easy to move in together after college and marry ten years ago. Both of us grew up eating the Mac and Cheese, fried chicken and mashed potato, meat loaf and iceberg lettuce salads with Thousand Island dressing.
Angela never ventured beyond this small circle of safe foods. She gagged the first time we went to sushi with our friends in Minneapolis. She learned to declare herself full to clients when they went to eat at some trendy place, and would eat the peanut butter and jelly sandwich she kept in her purse on the drive home. I had long ago given up trying new dishes on Angela who found even black pepper overwhelmingly spicy.
Angela works in publishing and edited this missive before she left me and Eddie, our standard poodle, despite all the transparency. I found it open on my laptop with all the markups in yellow getting rid of extraneous comments and run-on sentences, which I mostly undid because what does she know about how I feel.
Throughout the three seasons of golf that I had been finishing my round on the 15th hole, I answered any questions Angela had, which were few, and if I lost any details, she could see the pictures on Instagram or make comments on Facebook. She liked every picture I posted. She gave a thumbs up to every description of the various dishes we tried regardless of whether she would have tried it, which she wouldn’t have.
Janet and Bob and Angela and I first met after we joined the club five years ago. Most of the members were older and we naturally gravitated to one another. Bob is a scratch golfer and we played together just once. He is one of those guys that doesn’t say a word on the course, playing a mistake free round that was as uninspired -just straight 200 yard drives, greens in regulation with machine like regularity, and two putts. The only moment of drama came on 18, when he landed in a trap, laid his blast out to 8 feet, and drained the tricky downhill putt with the same unsettling focus. He barely smiled at the congratulations from his gathered audience of duffers. Over beers, he sat drinking a lemon water, and chewed on a few saltines before dismissing himself. I had fish and chips, and the other two fellows were elbow deep in the half pound bacon cheese burgers.
Angela enjoyed Janet’s company, but found it sad that she couldn’t publish her short stories. Angela even sent the best one, a beautifully written, sad story about a dying, crippled girl, to the fiction editor of her company’s premier literature magazine, but got no feedback. Janet spent her time writing and cooking, and as her writing was going nowhere, she poured her imagination into the kitchen. In the stove, she found, a kinder receptacle than the word processor. Janet would have us over when Bob was away, which was most of the time. He did some kind of financial work, and had to be in New York most of the week.
The first time I walked off 15, Janet was waving to me and pointing at a plate of pastries, only they weren’t dessert. They were golden filo dough wrapped around tender beef ensconced in a potage of savory vegetables. I wasn’t hungry, but I walked over. Seeing the feast, I sat down at their patio table and dug in. I snapped a picture, posted it on Instagram, tapping -“this should feel like cheating, it’s so delicious.”
Circe seduced Ulysses, not with her beauty or magic, but with food and made him late getting home. The following week, as I approached my drive which I had sliced into the grass near Janet and Bob’s yard, I saw Janet look up from her kitchen window and wave me in. She asked me about Angela, and mentioned something about having us over that weekend, but that Bob would be in New York again. I invited her over to our house as we were already having some people for cocktails and the Ohio State game. Lots of chicken nuggets, wings, pigs in blankets, light beer, and of course pizza. She asked if I had eaten, and without waiting for a response, brought over a tray of croque monsieur’s cut into decrusted triangles with a bowl of homemade onion soup -the dark rich broth redolent of caramelized onions that she had grown herself. Picture snapped. Food perfect. Lots of likes.
It became a routine, one that Angela and I joked about. If it bothered her, it was apparent only once when I brought home a bit of pot au feu. She wrinkled her nose and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with her Wonder bread, eating it with a glass of milk standing up in the kitchen as I finished off the stew with a New Zealand Shiraz blend. I never did that again.
The only time there was some tension at Janet’s was last week, when we were laughing over a wonderful Malaysian inspired spring noodle dish with pan seared duck. She got a call from Bob who said he would be stuck in New York over the weekend. He was on speaker and he said hi. After he hung up, Janet sat down without losing a beat and jumped back into our conversation about some local political issue. Then, without warning, she reached over and grabbed my hand and pressed it to her chest. I smiled, mumbled thank you, and retreated back to the fifteenth hole, resuming my round.
Bob cancelled his meetings later that week, and I ran into them at the clubhouse walking in for dinner. Janet was clinging to Bob’s arm. The house is so quiet now without Angela’s FM station blaring from her office. Eddie clearly misses her, and I’m getting hungry.
copyright 2015 W Michael Park