Either Amos and Myrtle were going to end dinner with some new boundaries or Myrtle was done. Amos had no idea how mad his wife of 25 years really was until she’d demanded he pull over and let her drive on the way over to the restaurant. Myrtle hadn’t asked to drive in years, and she’d told him to shut up and give her the keys before he could finish mentioning it.
At the restaurant she ordered sweet tea, and Amos said he would have a Budweiser. Myrtle kicked him so hard his head flew back and he let out a yelp.
“He will be having sweet tea” she told the confused server without ever taking her eyes from Amos.
“God damn it Myrtle why would you kick me in my bad leg?” He asked.
Instead of answering she held her menu up higher than usual and pulled her feet underneath her chair. When the server returned with two sweet teas she finally broke the silence.
“I’ll have the country fried steak with mashed potatoes and broccoli” She said a little too loud.
“I’ll have the chicken pot pie with a side of mashed potatoes” Amos said quietly after her.
When he looked at his wife she was staring through him as if he wasn’t even there anymore, and almost as if he’d wished it she sighed and said, “sometimes I think I would be better off if you’d have just died in that car accident.”
He wasn’t surprised by this, but he was scorned nonetheless.
“You don’t mean that”, was all he could mutter letting his eyes fall to his glass.
“I do. I do mean it Amos. It’s like you’ve completely forgotten how close you came to spending the rest of your life in jail, or just plain old dying right in front of me. You could have killed that little boy, and you could have killed me.” Her voice was starting to falter.
They both took sips from their drinks trying to avoid eye contact, but finding it hard to look anywhere else.
“It’s not like I did it on purpose. It’s not like I was trying to kill anyone. Don’t you think I know how bad it was? Don’t you know how sorry I am?”
“Well, you sure don’t act like it.” She said before shifting her gaze to their rental car parked outside the restaurant. “You’re lucky they didn’t drug test you Amos, and you’re lucky there were no witnesses.”
Amos looked around them at all the tables occupied by families and couples. Most of them weren’t even close enough to hear anything, but the couple at the table next door looked back at him knowingly.
“Do you have to damn talk about it here?” He asked.
“Do you think I care if you’re embarrassed Amos? We have to talk about it sometime, you just keep brushing it off like it will go away. It just won’t, and I’m tired of being quiet while you try to just go back to being the same useless addict you were two weeks ago. Shit Amos that you were ten years ago.”
He thought about just getting up and leaving. Walking out of there, getting in the car and never coming anywhere close to his wife or the dump of a town they resided in. He knew it wasn’t going to happen. She had the keys and she had his balls. Those were two things that weren’t going to change whether she left him or not. So instead he got up and walked as fast as his tired legs would take him into the bathroom.
Myrtle stared at the spot where her husband had sat moments before. She was trying to decide if she should stay and wait for him to wring himself out in the bathroom or leave while he was gone. She pictured herself behind the wheel of the car, smiling. Even though she hadn’t done it in years, smoking a Virginia Slim cigarette looking ten years younger despite the bad habit.
“Ah, who am I kidding. The man has already taken the best years of my life. Where the hell is my old ass going from here but home?” She asked herself out loud just in time to be overheard by the server bringing their plates.
“I’m sorry” she said, “Ignore me, I’m just an old lady that does too much talking to herself.”
He was already walking away but gave her a nod. She ate her food in silence watching the steam rise off of Amos’s plate across the table. When he came out the bathroom she was almost half way done with her food, and from the look on her face half way done with him as well.
“Look Myrtle”, He said as he sat down, “I’m a no-good junkie who doesn’t deserve to live, let alone have someone like you as my wife.”
Her laughter filled the whole restaurant and the patrons all turned around to look at them.
“Well isn’t that just exactly what you wanted to damn hear?” He asked.
She managed to get a “no” out between her subsiding laughter.
“You think it’s true don’t you? You think I shoulda died when we hit that tree. You think I shoulda swerved to miss that kid just a little bit sooner so that my whole half of the car would have been smashed in. Me with it. Dead. You wish I was dead.”
Myrtle looked at her husband. She looked at the wrinkles around his old brown eyes. His forehead was beaded with sweat, and it ran down the sides of his dark face. He looked older than he should have and he seemed so fragile. He’d never been so fragile before.
“No Amos, I don’t wish you were dead.” She went back to eating her food and looking past the man she’d never bring herself to get rid of.
“Yes you do.” Amos replied. Then he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his wallet, grabbed the cash for their meal, and the Xanax he kept for situations like this one. With two sips of sweet tea the pill was down.