Food and Men
I put in Heartburn, then start dipping
breadsticks into a container of hummus,
my dinner, as I watch
Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson
their first night together, scoffing the pasta
she's made at 4 a.m. They're in her bed,
twirling their forks into the same big bowl
just like the scene in An Unmarried Woman
in which Jill Clayburgh and Alan Bates
gobble her famous omelet with Tabasco sauce
from the same skillet.
I have never eaten anything
with anyone from the same pot
or serving dish. Maybe I have missed out
by not learning to cook
something simple and sexy
that I could offer in a post-coital
moment. I have spent
a good part of my life afraid
of food and men, one of whom
asked, Why is there only diet coke
and a head of cabbage in your fridge?
He'd spent the night and was looking
for orange juice or a bagel, I guess.
I told him I was headed to the market
that very day, that I'd just been busy.
We went to a diner where I explained
the cabbage wasn't even mine—
it belonged to a roommate
who was away for a week
and that's why it was turning brown.
She's on some crazy diet, I said.
The truth is—I was too.
I can't even remember which regimen
it was—Low fat? Vegetarian? Sugar free?—
but I went off it when I ordered pancakes.
The man was older than I was
with a woman to whom he was committed.
Could I deal with that? he wanted to know.
I said that was weirder than having
a lone cabbage in the fridge
and I left in a huff, but not that much
of a huff, since I was used to jerks.
I wonder if he would have left her
for me if I'd whipped up French toast
and we wolfed it down together,
standing over the stove,
he in his boxers, I in my open robe.
When I went back home, I decided
to throw out the cabbage. It was heavy
like a bowling ball without the holes.
I awkwardly cradled it, slimy
in the plastic it was wrapped in.
The guy called back a few times,
saying, What about phone sex?
It would be another five years
before I would marry
someone else, someone appropriate
or so I thought. The first time he spent
the night at my apartment, he said,
"Let's order in!" even though
I had stocked up on coffee and yogurt
and fruit. The scrambled eggs came
in Styrofoam containers, but he put
the food on plates for good presentation.
Soon after he said we should get married—
so casual I couldn't be sure
it was a real proposal. For a while,
he even cooked like Meryl Streep.
But a few years into our marriage,
he started to sleep a lot and stare
into a computer screen instead of at me.
It ended badly, though not because
I was like Jack Nicholson. It's true
that I've rented Heartburn on DVD,
but I still haven't found the divorce
movie that truly captures
my situation. I am much happier
than when I was married,
but as Meryl Streep's shrink
(Maureen Stapleton) tells her,
"Divorce is only a temporary solution."
No one gets heartburn in Heartburn
which makes the title too much
of a pun, in my opinion. Still,
I can relate to the shouting matches
and the ransacking of pockets and drawers,
looking for clues. After my husband
left, I found dozens and dozens
of Alka-Seltzer packets he'd bought
for an art project. He'd written
words on the tablets with a Sharpie,
then dropped them into water,
filming them as they fizzled
and disappeared. I have to admit
he had some good ideas,
as I push the open button and slide out
the DVD. I make sure I've not left
any crumbs on the couch.
In the kitchen my ex was famous
for his spills and splatters, dirtying
as many plates and pans
as possible. I suppose I could say
that one of the reasons it ended badly
was because I was always responsible
for the clean up.