In the latest installment of “Love, Recorded,” Matthew Salesses tries to make his wife happier than she is.
My wife and I have never done Restaurant Week, though I have told her about it, each time after the week has passed. “Next year,” I said the first time, “we will do it for sure.”
The second time, I said, “I didn’t realize it was twice a year.”
The third time, I had nothing.
Someone would post about their meal on Facebook, or would tell us about their meal while we ate together somewhere worse, or would suggest a high-end restaurant and tell us to wait until the week rolled around again. And I would forget. Because I forget things—it is the one thing I am truly good at.
This time, though, I have been thinking about what I can do to make my wife a happier wife than she is. I make a reservation at a restaurant that will serve grilled watermelon as part of its menu.
Watermelon is Cathreen’s favorite fruit, and she is crazy about fruit. She is addicted, though I suppose this is a lucky addiction; fruit will not wipe her brain, at least not permanently. Sometimes she is a zombie about fruit.
We have spent much of our money on vacation, but this is Restaurant Week, and this is what Restaurant Week is for. It is for husbands to please their wives.
On Friday, she dresses up and meets me in Harvard Square after work. I am sagging with the weight of the work week, yet there is the weekend like an extended hand. She has worn heels that will dig into her feet, but it is a short walk.
We descend a staircase, then walk up more stairs into a mix-and-match of green and gold and pink. Somehow, this works.
“We should making our house like this,” Cathreen says.
I hope that we have reserved a window seat.
There is a porch, or a kind of sun room. A boy with an ego leads us to our seats.
A family with old people—grandparents of a Harvard student, perhaps—sits down at the table beside us.
This is trouble, I think, but I talk. I get Cathreen to talk, asking about our two nephews, about our cat—her three babies.
I notice right away that she doesn’t order the watermelon. I panic that I have made the wrong choice. The old people at the table beside us are making me nervous. They are complaining already.
But the soup she has ordered comes and smiles itself into the conversation.
Now all we can talk about is the soup, and we do, happily. I can see Restaurant Week winning a game with itself. The watermelon, which I have ordered, is excellent. It is unexpected, this taste that flutters and doesn’t quite disappear.
This is a success, I think.
And then the entree comes, and I have ordered the same dish as the grandfather—the lamb—which he sends back. He says it is like chewing leather. I chew like I am chewing his skin.
I think this is probably as good as lamb can get: I realize I never like lamb, though I have ordered it. This lamb tastes less like lamb, more—I don’t know how else to explain it—humble.
Cathreen’s steak is also tough, but delicious. I can feel myself doubting that she actually likes it, though, as the waiter apologizes to the grandfather. I eat most of her steak myself.
I am struck by the weight of expectation, like an upside-down parallel to the weight of work on a Friday. It is a weight you carry in your arms, instead of on your back. The weight feels like a task, like you must hump it from one place to the next—you know you could drop it, but you can’t, unless you complete the trip successfully.
There have been Valentine’s Days, and birthdays, and anniversaries, where the weight was too much and we had to stop. But today will not be one of those days.
Today, we will eat until we are overfull, because we have young teeth and taste buds sparking with love, and even when Cathreen’s feet develop blisters, we will buy bandages to lessen the pain, and we will walk together, just talking, until Restaurant Week is a success. We will make it a success.
We will make it.