Margaret Fincher woke up with smudged mascara and still wearing last night’s dress—wrinkled and tighter around the waist. Roland Thomas had told her she looked beautiful. He looked pretty good himself, she had told him. She hadn’t seen Roland in almost a year and his coming home was the reason she had volunteered to host a dinner party with nearly a dozen of their friends. It took such an occasion as Roland Thomas’s homecoming for Margaret to host anything; the reason being primarily because she hated this part of it: the clean up the next day. She hated a kitchen full of dishes. If only she could believe in paper plates. But that was out of the question, especially where Roland was involved.
There was a window above the kitchen sink, the only redemptive quality of the task before her. Margaret opened the blinds as the first light of the morning began to illuminate the dust in the air. John Black was holding his briefcase to his side, a coffee cup in his other hand, walking out the front door across the street to his car. Speaking of dirty dishes, Margaret thought, there is a household where dirty dishes, dirty laundry, and dirty children are eternal. You clean the dishes and wash the laundry and bathe the kids, and no sooner is the task over then you must begin again. That is what Margaret hated about dishes: their eternal nature.
Last night there had been music—classical music streaming through the speakers of a portable record player Roland had brought over. She had asked him to bring it, along with the classical records she knew he collected. When the first notes of Stravinsky’s Firebird began to play, Margaret’s spirits were lifted and she wondered why life couldn’t always be like this.
The dishwasher was beginning to look promising when Margaret dried her hands long enough to start the coffee. If dishes must be washed, they might as well be accompanied by something enjoyable. And anyway, she was working from home today so there was no reason to rush the mundanities of life, other than to be done with them sooner.
Last night there had been food that was not thrown together at the last minute, but had taken a full week to plan, purchase and prepare. And the difference in taste was memorable. Roland had complimented her on her efforts. Their mutual friend, Frank, had wished out loud, after three glasses of wine, that his wife would make such a fuss every evening, or even once a week. Thanks to Margaret’s diligence in refilling the wine glasses throughout the evening, the comment was taken good-naturedly by all in earshot.
Margaret did not dislike children. And she knew that dishes and laundry could not be entirely avoided in a world where things did not remain stagnant; but perhaps fewer children and less laundry, if it could be helped. For a moment she allowed herself to imagine Roland sitting at the table near her, reading off today’s headlines from his phone while sipping his cup of coffee. It was not the first time she had imagined him in her life, but it certainly did not happen until he left to work in Hong Kong eight months ago. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so they say, and for good reason it would seem. Before he had left she had given him reason to believe that they would only ever be friends. He did not yet know of her change of heart, but she hoped that last night’s perfectly cooked leg of lamb had given him some indication.
If it took one hundred more dinner parties and one hundred more Friday mornings of this drudgery to show him how she felt, it would be worth it. She said that, but she knew the realities of the morning after would hold her back. If only she could learn to tolerate a sink full of dirty dishes, Margaret thought, then she would welcome more frequently the propelling forces that brought her kitchen to such a state. But maybe, ever so slowly, she was learning. Maybe, after all, she and dishes had something in common.