Table For Two Please

Even though my husband knows  
I am the wrong person  
to take out to eat  

we attempt to order eggs,  
undercooked vegetables, meat  
cool to the touch, and a caesar  
salad stacked like a jenga puzzle  

knocked over with  
my fork, the one I hold  
with the curved edge pointing into 
my mouth, not upside down  
in some lack of understanding how  
the simplest of utensils functions.  
I have been laughed at,  

for my mispronunciation of wine;  
I have been told there is a new  
line cook who perhaps lost their  

thermometer even though I know  
the uniform comes with a handy  
narrow pocket to keep this essential  

tool accessible; I have stopped myself  
from telling my husband,  
a pound of perch costs the same  

as these three perch served with fries;  
I have poured hot water into the  
sludge of coffee and sipped;  
I have ordered the ten dollar  

glass of fresh squeezed orange juice 
because it was delicious and too short;  
I have asked to substitute chips and salsa
for fries when they are a more suitable  
companion for quesadillas;  
I have watched guests peel back  

the crisp skin of a salmon and lay it on  
the side of their plate where seeds  
or an inedible garnish go and somehow 
I have abstained myself from leaping  
onto the table and shoving the skin into my mouth  
because it’s the best part. I have embarrassed  

my husband when I took notes of what I was  
eating and where, never mind the service  
was always outstanding when I kept the menu  

and scribbled with audible glee first  
razor clam; or the oyster whose brine  
hit my bad molar and I cringed  

at it’s coolness to quickly grab another  
and bite once but this time on the good side  
releasing the sweet pocket of sea; or the waiter  

who ignored my husband when I ordered  
for him in Spanish and I thought  
holy shit it must be wonderful  
to be a man sometimes;  
I have been instructed on how to eat  

a whole fried fish by two separate people  
after I said yes, it is ok, I know there  
are bones in a catfish, and I promise  

not to choke on them; woozily I almost 
wept watching a waiter wisk an egg  
table side for a caesar salad and when  
questioned about anchovies I said yes. 
I have tried to read The Plague while  
eating the best chicken tacos in Kalamazoo 
and had to set down Camus to finish;  
I have stood outside swinging doors  
listening for Spanish and mariachi music
jealous of dishwashers who had machines  
and hoses like a car wash when all I had  
at my job was a six inch fan to keep me cool
in front of my three sinks; I have grated the skin  
off all four knuckles and without pausing  
threw away the blood spotted cheese,  
sanitized my station, put my hand 
in a glove, and started all over again.  
I have been served a niçoise salad  
with a can of tuna hurriedly thrown over  
iceberg lettuce; I have been handed a pizza 
which was 99% cheese and never again  
saw the waiter until I was given a check;  
the long distance between a check planted
too early and so late I would consider leaving  
but don’t because my husband is good company;  
we have waited all week to get out of the house.

Monica Rico is a Mexican American CantoMundo Fellow, Macondista, and Hopwood Graduate Poetry Award winner who grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan’s HZWP and works for the Bear River Writers’ Conference. Her manuscript PINION is the winner of the 2021 Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry selected by Kaveh Akbar.

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