Where I’m Dining From
It was our ninth weekend in the rundown, 2-bedroom Raymond Carver story we’d leased just outside town.
The place was a shithole, but what had we hoped for?
It was big, yet strangely cramped. Wooden and full of short echoes. Definitely no room to raise a kid; like that would matter to her.
Outside, a balding crabapple tree’s crooked slouch shaded what was left of a broken picket fence, half-frowning at whatever it was failing to keep in or out on a given day. And that driveway, paved in ruts with the shells of ten-thousand dead oysters, sounded a rolling crunch when my half-dead Ford would groan to a stop into our detached carport.
The kitchen was cold, as though every breakfast it ever hosted had ended in cigarettes, bacon grease, and silence. The fridge was bare. And, the oven’s pilot light made a point of doing itself in every night around 5.
A green princess phone lay exhausted on our empty counter — the stretch and strain of a hundred whispered basement calls had tangled its cord into 50 hopeless and unbreakable coils of embrace. No use even trying to straighten them out now.
Our bed squeaked a little when we fucked. But the bed didn’t squeak much these days. Not since my new job and not since that damned “accident” of hers we never talk about.
We both hated the place, but I think I hated it more. Every wall could have held a photo. But, we had no photos. We only had walls. Lots and lots and lots of walls.
When we complained about the declining state of the Carver place, the super told us it looked like the alcoholism was working fine, but he admitted the crushing disappointment might not really kick in until he could get into town and pick up a new despair governor for our rooftop’s malaise unit.
But, now, it’s been weeks, and almost nothing’s changed.
The bed still never squeaks. The oven’s still cold. And, those oysters in the driveway are still well and truly dead.
And, although the new autumn’s breeze used to make us want a drink and a snuggle by the fire, now we’re Living Carver. And with this chimney and its creosote and cracks, the taunting of the October wind makes our narrow front door rattle like a rotten brown tooth. We just ignore it. We ignore everything.
Worst of all, it turns out this house—this story—wasn’t even Carver’s.
Just a cheap fragment of a poor imitation, scribbled on the back of a snapshot in the smeared blue ballpoint of a stolen bank pen. Nothing. Fake. Every squeakless bed and pointless phone cord embrace. All nothing. Made-up makebelieve. Again. Still.
On the other hand, I guess our super finally got the disappointment going. Plus, those crabapples are starting to come in real nice.