"What are you doing?" she asked sharply.
He looked up in surprise, his expression perplexed. "I'm reading the menu," he suggested. Despite the large plastic covered booklet in his hands, opened to a list of items that looked very much like dinner selections, he was suddenly unsure of what he was doing.
"You haven't asked me what I am having," she pointed out.
He immediately left the area of his brain reporting current action and position, and zeroed in on etiquette, searching desperately for information on when, how, why, and where to ask your date what she is having. He stared at her blankly. Finding absolutely nothing in the recesses of his brain regarding this subject, he switched to psychology. What did she mean? Why did she say that? What did she want? Just what was she trying to tell him? He studied her facial expression and body language. He looked deeply into her eyes. Whoops! That was a mistake. He immediately defaulted to apology and acceptance. "I'm sorry sweetheart, what are you having?"
"I'm not sure yet," she said, then returned her attention to the menu in her hands which looked very much like an exact duplicate of the one he had been reading.
He raised an eyebrow. The little pointer in his brain began zinging from one side to the other. One of his eyes squinted, narrowing his view on one side. Shut down of facial expressions occurred the moment she moved her head. His expression was neutral by time she looked up.
Her face calm, she asked, "What are you having?"
He looked at her blankly. Was this a trick question, he wondered? What was he supposed to be having? He sent his brain pointer through the catalog of all past discussions and experiences with her. The sound of file drawers opening and shutting in haste, the rifle of paper as folders were quickly scanned echoed along the neuro-pathways of his brain. She wasn't a vegetarian, so he could eat meat. What else? What else? What else? Nothing, nothing, nothing. Oh no!
"Uhhhhh," he murmured while glancing down at the menu. He briefly wondered if he was required to answer this question, then stalled for time, something he had a great deal of practice in and felt comfortable doing. "The rack of lamb looks good," he said.
"Where do you see that?" she asked.
His head snapped up in surprise. Her expression remained calm and serious. Requiring verification of his surroundings, he glanced around the room at men and women in white shirts and black vests carrying trays laden with food; tables with neat white clothes draped over them; upturned glasses; elegant table settings; strangers eating at nearby tables -- they were human. He returned his gaze to the object of his affections. Her face and demeanor remained composed. Raising the menu a little closer to his face, he put his finger on the selection that read rack of lamb and spelled out each word carefully, making doubly sure he had read it correctly. L-A-M-B spells lamb. "Right here," he said smiling over the top of the menu at her.
She gave him one of those, "What? Do you think I'm stupid?" looks.
He frowned. What did he say? He replayed the conversation. It had been short. The pointer in his brain whirred in circles. He looked down at his finger, then moved it down the page. When totally lost, change the subject. "Baked haddock might be a nice change," he said.
"I don't care for that," she said.
He looked up and narrowed his eyes at her just as she looked down at her menu. Had she asked him what he was having or had she asked him what he thought she should have? He shook his head vigorously.
She looked up at him through her eyelashes and frowned. "What are you doing?"
He gave her a pained expression. "Just a little headache," he said.
She gave him an, "I'm not sure I believe that," look and went back to studying her menu.
"Would you like an aspirin?" she asked a moment later. Her attention remained fixed on the menu in her hands.
Ah, loving concern. This was more like it, he thought. "No thank you sweetheart, I'll be fine."
"If you won't take an aspirin, then please don't shake your head like that," she said. "You look like an idiot."
His mouth dropped open. She looked up and he instinctively closed it, an act which clashed his teeth together and caused him to wince.
"Are you sure you're feeling alright?" she asked.
"I'll be fine once I have something to eat," he said. "Are you ready to order?"
She sighed, folded her menu, and layed it near the edge of the table. "I can't decide," she said. "I'll have whatever you're having."
Copyright 1995 Kathleen Anne O'Connell
"Honey, what is that in your hands?"
He looked down at the box of frozen pizza he had been planning to throw in the grocery cart. It was clearly marked THOMPSON'S MICROWAVABLE PIZZA. He looked at his wife. She looked back at him. He held the box up in front of his face, so she could read the lettering. "Pizza!" he said smiling and peeking around the side.
"I can see that," she said while returning her attention to the shopping list in her hands.
He frowned and lowered the box. If she could see that, why had she asked? He tentatively held the box over the top of the cart.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
He quickly pulled it back and looked around to see if anyone had heard her. While he was at it, he made sure nobody he knew was standing nearby. When the guys at the office complained about their wives being from another planet, he always assured them his wife was different. The last thing he needed was to be caught in a confusing situation with his different wife.
He attempted to act cool and regain control of the situation. Anytime his wife asked him what he was doing, it meant: a) that he was doing something he shouldn't be doing, or b) that he wasn't doing something he should be doing.
Now, what was he doing? He was holding a box of pizza. Well, he could solve that problem if she would let him put the pizza in the cart. Maybe he wasn't supposed to put the pizza in the cart. Where was he supposed to put it? Surely he wasn't supposed to carry it? He noticed the cans and bottles were at the back of the cart, paper goods were all stacked at the front, and vegetables were in the seat. There seemed to be some pattern here. Maybe he wasn't putting it in the proper area of the cart.
Now, what did pizza go with? With beer, of course! Smiling to himself, he started to lower the pizza onto the six pack of Miller.
Whoops! He cringed and looked at her. She didn't look happy. This could be a problem. Maybe it wasn't what he was doing, but what he wasn't doing? What wasn't he doing? He looked around at the other shoppers, somehow hoping for enlightenment.
"Will you quit fooling around?" She took the box from his hands and walked toward the frozen food case. He watched in total confusion as she placed the package on the shelf and returned empty-handed. Shaking her head at him, she pushed off toward another aisle.
He was standing there staring after her blankly when someone tapped him on the shoulder. Oh no! His entire career passed before his eyes as he slowly turned and looked into the grinning face of a coworker.
"Grocery shopping with the wife, eh?"
He shrugged noncommittally and threw back his shoulders. Maybe the guy hadn't seen anything. But no, he winked before turning away. Oh great! Maybe he'd call in sick tomorrow.
He felt a little better seeing his coworker rush up to a woman with hands on her hips and a "Where have you been?" look. When they both looked his way, he quickly turned and casually wove his way through the throng of people and carts to where his wife was inspecting the meat selections. He smiled to himself when he didn't get a "Where have you been?" look.
He spent the remainder of the shopping expedition staying out of his wife's way and wondering how he was going to get his pizza. He was still daydreaming when they returned to the frozen food aisle. While he was thinking up clever maneuvers for snatching a pizza and sneaking it into the cart, his wife loaded up on frozen foods. To his surprise they stopped in front of the case where his favorite pizza was boldly displayed.
His wife opened the door. He held his breath. She reached in and took out two frozen pizzas that looked exactly like the one he had been holding earlier. He watched in amazement as she put them in the cart. She was wheeling the cart into a checkout line when he finally found his breath and caught up to her.
He wavered between asking her about the pizza and letting it slide. Curiosity got the better of him. "Sweetheart?" he said.
"Yes honey?" she answered while lining items neatly on the checkout conveyor.
"That's my favorite pizza," he said.
"I know dear," she said looking up and giving him a bright smile. He immediately felt better. Her smiles always did that for him. He almost forgot what he wanted to know, but not quite. "That's the same pizza I had earlier," he said.
"You didn't have any pizza today," she said while returning to moving groceries from cart to conveyor.
Huh? He was confused again, but no, he remembered his mission. "I had it earlier, over there." He pointed to the frozen food aisle.
"Oh, did you?" she replied distractedly.
He backed up. This wasn't working. He tried slow pronunciation. "I w a s g o i n g t o p u t i t i n t h e c a r t e a r l i e r."
"Oh, were you?" she said.
Frustration needled at the edges of his nervous system. She sometimes had this short term memory problem. He occasionally thought about suggesting she see a doctor, but then thought better of it. "Sweetheart," he said gently. That usually got her attention. She stopped unloading the cart and looked up at him. He smiled. "I was going to put the pizza in the cart earlier and you wouldn't let me," he explained.
"It's frozen," she said and went back to unloading.
He stopped his hand before it reached his head to stratch.
"No! No! No!" he heard a woman's voice yell sharply. He looked toward the end of the frozen food aisle where a woman was waving a box of frozen pizza in front of a confused male face. "We get the frozen foods last!" she said. "Do you want them to defrost before we even get out of the store?" She pushed the box into the man's waiting arms and shaking her head, moved off. Every male in the area was turned toward the poor red-faced man left holding the frozen pizza to his chest. He even saw a few peeking around the corners of the aisles. Some wore knowing smirks, others sympathetic smiles, and some wore faces of relief, as he imagined his face currently appeared.
"Sweetheart?" he said turning back to his wife.
"Yes honey?" she said looking up at him with that bright smile.
"I'm glad you're different," he said.
"I know," she said and winked at him before returning her attention to the cart.
Before he could venture too far into wondering what that meant, he reached up, adjusted his hat, and distracted himself by admiring the models on the covers of the magazines lining the narrow checkout.
Copyright 1995 Kathleen Anne O'Connell
All good reasons to run, run, as fast as you can:
Advice for women:
Last updated November 27, 1996|
Copyright © 1996 Kathleen A. O'Connell, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.