Mikaela Grantham ~ Breakfast

Question:

If you run into the wife of the man you had an affair with, what do you say to her?

Do you say:
a) I am sor­ry fucked your hus­band, that was a real­ly dumb thing for me to do.
b) If it makes you feel bet­ter, it all came back around to me. Karma’s a bitch.
c) Don’t say any­thing. Walk in the oppo­site direc­tion. Don’t look back.

* * *

I wake up sweaty and with a hang­over. There is a cof­fee mug on my night­stand filled with luke­warm water. My phone buzzes. Allen wants to know if I want to get break­fast. He says:

break­fast?
i feel like garbage

It’s almost one in the after­noon. We stayed late drink­ing the rest of the opened bot­tles of wine from the By the Glass menu after we fin­ished clos­ing out all our tables. We will prob­a­bly get in trou­ble for it lat­er, but we don’t care. I text Allen back:

me too
meet you in 30?

I’ve nev­er cared about get­ting into trou­ble. I just deal with it. I walk to the bath­room, open the med­i­cine cab­i­net, and take out the Advil bot­tle. It’s emp­ty. My dad used to yell at me for always eat­ing the last of the cere­al and not throw­ing away the box­es. It’s a habit I still car­ry with me. I’m only dri­ving myself crazy with it now. There is, how­ev­er, the bot­tle of Norcos.

* * *

When I was nine­teen I had an affair with a mar­ried man. He was old­er and tat­tooed and I pre­tend­ed to nev­er notice his wed­ding ring. I met him and his wife at the cof­fee shop I worked at. I made them cap­puc­ci­nos every morn­ing. I’d pour the milk in a way so that a per­fect lit­tle white heart would form at the top of his cap­puc­ci­no. For years after­wards, I blamed all my mis­for­tune in love on that affair.

* * *

I look at the Norcos and con­sid­er them. They were pre­scribed to me last year after I had an abor­tion. I’ve nev­er tak­en them. I was in love with a man who liked to cum inside me and not love me back. I said: I want the baby and he said: good luck being a sin­gle mom. If I had good luck I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have end­ed up preg­nant in the first place. As I laid on the table with my legs spread open watch­ing a tube suck the life out me I thought about how ten years ear­li­er, I was nine­teen and hav­ing sex with a mar­ried man inside his Ford Taurus. I thought:

This is so fun­ny. This must be the kar­ma every­one is always talk­ing about.

I’ve only slept with two men since the day I spent on that table squeez­ing a stranger’s hand while anoth­er stranger opened me up.

1. A sweet jazz musi­cian who snored loud­ly, but held me close to his chest and ran his hands through my hair. I nev­er saw him again.
2. The oth­er guy I got so drunk with and kept for­get­ting how to pro­nounce his name. He kept cor­rect­ing me:

It’s Jasper, like Yeah-Sper.

I nev­er saw Yeah-Sper again either.

* * *

Last night, the mar­ried man Allen has been hav­ing a secret affair with came into the restau­rant with his wife and the host sat them in his sec­tion. I offered to take them, but Allen insist­ed that it was fine. I stood at the serv­er sta­tion and watched Allen approach the table grin­ning. The man’s face turned as red as the San Marzano toma­to sauce we use on the Margherita piz­zas. Allen said:

Hello and wel­come. My name is Allen and I’ll be your serv­er tonight. May I start you off with still or spark­ing water this evening?

I nev­er tell my tables my name unless they ask. And if they ask I make them tell me their name first. They don’t like that, but I don’t like feel­ing like I need to tell peo­ple what my name is. Claudia, one of the oth­er servers, said to me that I should real­ly start being nicer to the guests. Allen was stand­ing behind her rolling his eyes. I said:

I am nice to every­one, Claudia.

Claudia is a twen­ty-two year old know-it-all which makes it hard to not fuck with her. Allen likes to stack things real­ly high on the shelves and watch her try and reach for them. Last night she knocked a whole stack of piz­za box­es on her­self as she was reach­ing for one to pack up a guests left­over Margherita. It was pret­ty fun­ny, though she didn’t think so.

* * *

We kept the cere­al box­es on the top of the refrig­er­a­tor grow­ing up. Sometimes I wouldn’t push them far back enough, so that when you opened the fridge door they would fall off and hit you in the face. Unfortunately, my dad almost always was the one to get hit in the face with the cere­al box­es. It made my mom laugh, which fur­ther frus­trat­ed my dad and only made her laugh hard­er. He would say:

Goddammit, I’m gonna start set­ting boo­by trap’s for you guys one of these days!

* * *

Allen and I wait­ed for Claudia to leave before we decid­ed to drink all the unfin­ished wine. We sat on the curb out­side the restau­rant pass­ing bot­tles back and forth until there was noth­ing left. I asked him if it was awk­ward to wait on his secret lover. He laughed and said:

For me it wasn’t awk­ward at all.

* * *

My affair did not last long, but long enough to ruin his mar­riage. I thought I loved him and then when he told me he was leav­ing his wife I want­ed noth­ing to do with him. He was too old. I told him he should just have a baby with his wife and for­get about me. He blamed me for ruin­ing his mar­riage.

Years after it end­ed, I ran into his wife in the gro­cery store. I saw her before she noticed me. I had just found out I was preg­nant and was in the throes of a rela­tion­ship turn­ing sour. I was still in my paja­mas. I hadn’t eat­en any­thing all day yet. I came for kosher dill pick­les.

* * *

There was a time when the bot­tle of Norcos felt like hav­ing a loaded gun on hand, but not any­more and I’m not going to wake up and take hydrocodone because I am hun­gover. I am going to brush my teeth and hair. I am going to put on clean clothes and I am going to ride my bike to the French Quarter and get a bagel with Allen at the only good bode­ga on Decatur Street that also hap­pens to sell tiny pack­ets of Advil.

* * *

Answer:

Watch the wife push her cart slow­ly down the canned goods aisle. Her heels click on linoleum as she moves towards you. She picks up a jar of kala­ma­ta olives. It’s doubt­ful she will rec­og­nize you, you have changed, you’ve grown up, but you feel frozen in your paja­mas and dirty hair any­ways. Don’t do any­thing. Don’t say any­thing. Turn and walk in the oppo­site direc­tion towards the exit sign. Forget about your growl­ing stom­ach, break­fast, and the pick­les. Keep walk­ing and don’t look back.

~

Mik Grantham is the founder and co-edi­tor of Disorder Press which she runs with her broth­er. Her work has appeared in Hobart, The Nervous Breakdown, and Fanzine. Her poet­ry col­lec­tion HARDCORE will be pub­lished by SF/LD Books in ear­ly 2021. She lives in New Orleans.