They didn’t kiss before they got married.
They held hands a few times, but that was all that their courtship allowed them. Chastity is the most important gift you can give yourself and your spouse, their pastor told them. At the wedding the groom’s father spoke for twenty minutes about how important it was for the wife to be submissive to the husband. My friend Marcy rolled her eyes as she listened to this.
It was a dry wedding; they served a selection of fruit juices instead. But we had come prepared, and drank behind the dumpster outside. Marcy had dated Chris, the groom, for a bit. “We made out all the time,” she said. She put her cigarette out. “He felt guilty about it, though. He had this purity fixation that was a little insane.”
Marcy was moving to Brazil to teach English and learn Portuguese. Brazil was the farthest place she could go, I think, from our town. As we drank, we watched the bride and groom walk across the grass with the photographer.
“Sheila has me to thank for any kissing skills he has,” she said.
Chris waved at us. He seemed happy. Chris and Shelia sat on the swings at the playground as the photographer snapped photos.
“Of course he’s happy, he’s going laid tonight,” she said. “But it’s probably going to be terrible.”
Marcy left for Brazil. Just before her flight I was going to make a big declaration, tell her that I loved her, but I stopped myself.
Chris and Sheila got pregnant. They had a baby but before I could see him, the baby died. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I didn’t go the funeral. I was in California visiting a friend. I sent a card. But what can you say about that in a card?
They came into the restaurant where I was working.
“Hey, how are you?” I said.
"Okay, okay,” they said.
It had been a year since their child died. I hadn’t seen them. I was a shitty friend.
“How’s Marcy?” they said.
“She’s still in Brazil,” I said. “She loves it down there.”
“She’s never coming back, is she?” they said.
Sheila sat down at the table and Chris went to the bathroom. When Chris came out he stopped by the server station.
“How’s Marcy?” he said.
“She’s good,” I said. “She’s good.”
“Still in Brazil?”
“Yep, still in Brazil.”
He glanced over to where his wife was sitting. “I can’t stop thinking about her,” he said. “I almost bought a ticket to go see her.”
“Oh, yeah, you totally should. She’d love to see you and Sheila.”
“Sheila wouldn’t come,” he said. “She doesn’t like traveling.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Hey, can you do me a favor? If Sheila wants to order a burger, just tell her you’re out. Or they’re not ready, or something. Can you do that? She’s just been ordering a lot of burgers recently.”
“Hmmm,” I said, balancing my tray.
Sheila went to the bathroom and stopped by the server station.
“How’s Marcy?” she said.
“Great,” I said.
“She likes it in Brazil?”
“Is she worried about the Zika virus?”
“No, I don’t think so. Maybe a little. But she’s not trying to get pregnant.”
“Tiny heads,” Sheila said. “The poor babies with tiny heads. Isn’t it terrible? I wouldn’t want to be there now.”
“Mmmm,” I said.
“Can I ask you a favor? After we’re done eating, if Chris wants to order dessert, just tell him you don’t have it. I’m sorry to ask you this but he’s been eating a lot of dessert lately and I don’t want him eating anymore, he’s going to get diabetes.”
“Okay,” I said, balancing my tray.
They ordered their food. They started with breakfast items. An omelet with sausage patties for her and a steak and eggs for him. They finished that quickly. Then they went onto the lunch items: a Reuben sandwich for her and a salmon burger for him. I admired their appetite. They hadn’t gained any weight since I last saw them last, so I was impressed. They ate this next order quickly as well. I wouldn’t think it was possible, but their plates were clean. They ordered more: fish and chips for him, beef ribs for her. “Is this the same fucking people at table sixteen?” the cook said.
They finished these additional items easily. I went back to their table, clutching the check
“We’re still hungry,” they said. “I know we’ve ordered a lot, you probably think we’re insane, but we’re still hungry. We want more.”
They were the last table left.
Sheila ordered a burger but I feigned ignorance of any previous conversation. If she wanted a burger, let her have a burger. He ordered a country fried steak.
“I want to see these fuckers,” the cook said. He came out and looked at them. “That’s them?” he said.
“Yeah,” I said.
“I thought they’d be fat,” he said. “This is the last thing I’m cooking for them. This is bullshit.”
I delivered the food.
“Our kitchen is closing,” I said. “Anything else for you?”
They grabbed the menu and looked over it frantically. They were ravenous.
“Pancakes,” they said. “How about some pancakes? Let’s do pancakes, we love pancakes. With maple syrup on top. But no Zika Virus. Hold the Zika!”
“Okay,” I said.
“They want pancakes,” I told the cook.
“Pancakes?” he said.
“Pancakes, yeah,” I said.
“I’ll give them pancakes. I’ll give them some fucking pancakes.” He fired up the two grills. He mixed the batter. He began to pour. He grilled the pancakes and plated them and I began taking them out. As soon as I delivered them to the table and came back to the server station the cook had put up more plates of pancakes. When I delivered these their plates were empty. I kept bringing them pancakes and they kept eating them.
The cook saw me bring back the empty plates.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” he said. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
He peered at their table again and ran back to the grill line and made more pancakes. I took these out. They kept eating them. They wouldn’t stop.
“How is Marcy?” they said. “How is she? Is she okay? Does she like Brazil? Tell us all about her, is she never coming back? Does she like it? We want to go but that’s such a big trip. It’s such a big country. And the Zika virus? Is she scared of it? The poor babies with their tiny heads. It’s just so sad, so sad. It’s terrible, terrible, isn’t it? Is she afraid of it? Is she?”
The cook made more pancakes. And they ate them.
“These pancakes are so good,” they said. “These are so good. Please thank the chef for us.”
I went back to the cook. “They want more,” I said. “They want more.”
He cooked up the last of the batter and brought the pancakes out himself.
"This is it,” he said. “This is all we have.”
We all sat down and ate the last of the pancakes. It’s true, they were really good pancakes. I didn’t realize how hungry I was.
“How’s Marcy?” they said. “She likes Brazil? Is she ever coming back? It must be so beautiful down there, except for the Zika virus. Doesn’t that sound terrible, the Zika virus? All the babies with tiny heads, isn’t that horrible?”
“Yes,” I said. “It’s horrible. It’s really terrible.”
I brought out dessert. Oreo Pie. We all dug in, we didn’t even divide it onto plates. It was delicious, so delicious, probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten. “That was a good meal,” they said. “That was delicious. That was so good.” They sat back in their chairs. They smiled. I smiled. The cook smiled. We all smiled.