They were out celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. It doesn’t really matter where. Let’s say it was an Italian restaurant. They smiled at each other over the leather-bound menus and giggled when the waiter popped the Prosecco cork. They toasted to memories: Their first trip to Europe. Their wedding. The births of their children. She insisted they split the Insalata Caprese because it was always too much mozzarella for her. He lovingly mocked her lactose intolerance and agreed, if they could share the mushroom and walnut risotto. She smiled at him fondly but wondered how many hours she’d have to put on the treadmill to work off this dinner.
He insisted on practicing his Italian on the waiter, who was from Ohio. When his efforts were met with perplexity he switched to a description of their 1995 trip to Cinque Terre. Their bruschetta grew soggy, like the conversation. She listened politely along with the waiter and tried not to think about how many hours were left before the meeting she had tomorrow morning. He noticed her attention waning and ended the story in Manarola instead of Riomaggiore.
Over main courses of gnocchi and pasta al pesto they turned to the future. Retirement. Or maybe just a long trip. We could go back to Italy, he said wistfully, gazing into her eyes like a young Marcello Mastroianni. We could get an apartment in Rome and explore the country.
She responded that they’d better learn Italian if they were considering that. Didn’t he recall how difficult it had been to communicate? And how could she possibly work in such an environment? She shuddered at the thought of relying on a rush order smashed in the back of a Fed Ex truck bumping down the Via dei Fori Imperiali.
He argued it was part of the charm. Remember that sweet old lady at the antiques shop? What an adventure it had been to finally purchase that Marino Marini sculpture. And it did arrive, eventually!
She reminded him that the sculpture was a reproduction, and even if they wanted to buy reproductions, she’d have to work at least 20 more years. He leaned in to tell her how much she meant to him. He put his hand on her leg and it vibrated.
Marriage in the mobile phone era. Or rather, marriage to a corporate executive in the mobile phone era. She’d said no calls but had neglected to outlaw texts. She thought he would have accepted these interruptions by now. He hadn’t. She picked up the phone and insisted she was googling the delicious Chianti they were sipping. He knew this wasn’t true.
Dessert menu. Tiramisu. Cappuccino. Grappa. Long sighs. Diminishing eye contact. He thought desperate thoughts about his place in the food chain. She eyed the leftover pasta and wondered if it was worth asking for a doggie bag. He imagined their lifelong romance leaning like Pisa. Crumbling like the Colloseum in 1349. Sinking like Venezia. She wondered how big the mess at the office was and how many hours of sleep she’d get once this dinner was over. Check please, he said. I’ve got it, she responded, patting his arm. Happy anniversary, dear.