Dinner For One

I felt bad, awful, really. But there was nothing I could do. Nothing except stand in receipt of her vengeful glare. The pupils of her otherwise beautiful eyes became daggers, and they were thrown towards me with purposeful aim. This made me feel even worse, even more horrible. I felt as though I was doing something heinously wrong and there was not a damn thing I could do to correct it. So, I stood in place and allowed for her to stab me with stare until she had satiated her lust for retribution. When she was satisfied that I was indeed vanquished, she stormed passed me, the thuds of her slamming footfalls carried her out the front door and into the truck that she used to angrily speed away into the ambiguity of the bustling city. I was left alone. Alone and hungry while possessing no appetite. That juxtaposition will make sense soon…

I was once in love. Some years ago, I met a raven-haired beauty that could stop time with the effortless implementation of a smirk. With that same use of effortlessness, she could steal – and she did – she stole my heart and all of its essence within the fraction of a second. I was helpless, and she was ravenous – this would turn out to be a horrible mixture.

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She called me handsome. I had never been graced with that moniker before. At least, not from anyone who wasn’t my mother. When she spoke that description of me my blood pumped pure elation through the cavernous hollows of my veins. I was invincible. Or so I thought… she became my kryptonite.

This girl, this raven-haired beauty with eyes that could kill in the best and worst of ways had my undivided attention. We ended up dating. Can you believe that? Me, dating a beauty-queen – whoever would have thought it…

The best part? She had the desire to serve as well – she became a police officer! Me, the paramedic and this woman, an officer of the law – the safest house on the God-damned block – or so our neighbours would jest.

I was excited by our chosen professions – not because of an elitist mindset – but because I felt as though this gorgeous woman in blue would understand the horrors and quagmires of being on the frontline. Of being able to comprehend what it means to navigate the dark spots that linger in the alleys and roadways of our brash urban sprawl. Everyone always asks what the worst thing we have ever seen is, very few can actually understand it, and thus choose not to ask in the first place… I felt as though she was that kind of woman, the type of understanding soul that could soothe with empathy on those nights where the bad things slither passed the fabric of my uniform and into my tiring mind, slivers of trauma.

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But this was merely a fantasy. A fallacy of wishes. At the same depth as her beauty, her care for me was only skin deep. When the iniquitous things saturated through my uniform, seeping passed its perceived armour and into me, empathy was not something I received – judgement and condemnation however, plenty…

And that brings me to the beginning of how this weary prose started; with a woman that boasted satin strands of glistening black hair, angrily taking furlough from me. But why? Why was this pulchritudinous woman of the law so loathsome towards me? Because I refused her hand-crafted culinary offerings… I refused her homemade dinner. Now, before you too become angry with me, I assure you that this was not done out of spite nor protestation at what she had made. Objectively, it looked tantalizingly magnificent. And I’m sure it smelled just the same… not that I would know…

You see, I had just come home from a shift on the ambulance. My watch had ended and I was granted my time away from the sick and the dead. It was however during my watch that something awful happened. Something grotesque and abhorrent. As a paramedic, we see all manner of life; we see life come, we watch life flee and we observe everything in-between and the multitude of different ways that it comes to be. On my watch, on my shift, during my time at rescuing the damned, I came across a soul that was beyond the skill of our healing hands – a dead man. Not just a man that was dead – worse than that – a man that had been dead for some time.

Believe it or not, some death is worse than others. And what you see is sometimes placed into the hierarchy of better and worse as well. This guy, this poor soul was firmly etched into the column of worse…

His body was bloated, purple and grey with open pustules of fetid scent. He barely looked human anymore. The sun pressed in from the window of his living-room and the effulgent beam blanketed his corpse with a sickening scorch of baking heat. Another reason I hate the sun – it makes the dead stink… worse.

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As my eyes navigated this grizzly discovery, they etched into memory the discoloration to the fibers of his carpet that he appeared to be smelting into. This gelatinous putridity was a call that I had been dispatched to mid-way through my shift. And even though I never touched the glob of rotting human, his stench weaved itself nefariously into the fabric of everything that I was wearing – my radio held its sickening odor, my uniform was now coated in it and even my underwear captured microscopic elements of the dead man. For the rest of the day every time I moved my limbs or bent down to pick another patient off the floor, a rancid waft of insidious remnants punished my senses. Needless to say, I was not hungry, even if I once was…

By the time I had gotten home, all I wanted to do was throw my body into the shower and douse myself with the contents of every shampoo product that we owned. My beauty queen had other ideas though – she was waiting for me with plate in hand and a paused movie stapled to the screen of our TV. Once I explained that I needed to go for a shower, she openly brandished her disappointment, but reluctantly granted my leave.

When in the shower I did as explained, I doused myself from head to toe, vigorously rubbing, soaking and cleansing my body of the dead man. I even put shampoo into my nose, it burned and tasted awful. Another factor to my precipitously dwindling desire to consume food.

When I got out of the shower, I dried myself off and coached myself to breathe only in and out through my mouth. The smell was still festering within the passageways of my nose. Let’s just say this here and now, I was in no way ready nor able to eat anything. I was barely able to swallow air for fuck sakes!

Upon my return to our kitchen, my lady of the law was standing counter-side, begrudgingly taking loud sips from her glass of juice. This was a sure sign that she was vexed by me and my choice to shower.

“What took you so long? Use enough hot water there, Heneghan?”

“Huh? Babe, sorr-“

“You going to eat what I made? This is for you, you know?!”

“Yeah, hun… I, I’m not…”

“You’re not hungry?!! You knew I was making dinner, Matthew! What, ‘id you eat out or something? Why would you do that? How do you think that makes me feel, huh? Matt!”

“No, no, I didn’t-“

“Whatever, just play your stupid videogames then!” And with that, before ever being given a chance to say anything further, she just glared at me and then left me. Alone, and absently hungry.

As it would be revealed much later in our toxic co-dependence with one another, the reason for her anger was more-so a display of theatrics over anything real and bothersome. You see, she had another man to go and see… and my refusal of her delicacy was the perfect excuse to lash out and then leave.

I was left with dinner for one… I didn’t eat it. She didn’t either. But our dog seemed to enjoy it plenty.

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There are still nights that I cannot eat, you know… luckily for me, there is just no one here to yell at me now. So, when I do eat, well… it’s just dinner for one. And on the nights that I smell the dead again? Well… that’s dinner for none.

Thanks for reading, Cheers.

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