the hardest meal


Dinner was the hardest meal.

My dad would wait for me until late, seemingly incapable of eating alone. The two of us would sit at the kitchen table with the same white tablecloth that Momma had bought years ago although now it was faded rainbow because of all of the fruit punch, orange juice, and coffee spills.

I opened the door hoping he was in bed since it was already after ten o’clock. I peeked into the kitchen and saw him asleep in his chair.

The room smelled like tomato sauce. I lifted the pot and saw that he had made my favorite, spaghetti and vegan meatballs. The spaghetti had wrinkled and the sauce had dried. I quickly put some of the food onto a plate and sat down at the table. I twirled the spaghetti onto my fork and chewed as softly as possible.

He must have sensed I was there. He smiled faintly at me as he opened his eyes. His shirt engulfed his body, and his cheeks were thin as though he wasn’t eating enough. We went through our ritual conversation: How was your day, Mirabel? Good, Dad. What about yours? Good.

I never felt like he wanted to know more. His smile deepened when we had this conversation but his eyes looked down at the tablecloth, the wall, the darkness emanating from the window. This was all we usually said to each other.

Our conversations had been like this since Momma had left five years ago. I had been twelve then. The day she left he had stared out the window for hours, his breathing rushed as he held onto the edges of the table. Maybe when she left he had gone inside of himself and never come out.

There had been other women like the neighbor, his co-worker, but they hadn’t stayed for long. They could never make it through dinner. If you’re not used to it, the silence ate away at you.

It hadn’t always been like this. When Momma had been there, the conversations had been spirited and neverending. She would have to force us out of the kitchen so that she could clean up and we could go to sleep.

I loved to watch the two of them together. His eyes glowed soft charcoal colors for her. Her head slightly leaned towards him as she would smile at something he had said. Everything seemed perfect until the night before she left.

That night I slept on the sofa in the family room to escape them, crying softly into my teddy bear so they wouldn’t hear me. My chest shook like it would break. Did other kids have to go through this, I had wondered, staring at the television on mute. I watched the Huxtables dancing with their TV children until sleep finally overtook me.

—Lissa E.

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Published by lissa e.

Lissa's offerings include integrative mental health care, meditation and movement (yoga, qigong, intuitive) guidance, writings, and community facilitation offered in a compassionate, trauma-responsive, and racial and social justice-oriented framework as part of a lifelong mission to reduce suffering for all beings.

11 thoughts on “the hardest meal

  1. and what a story it was.. so reasonable so real.. i have to wonder if fathers silence somehow drove mother away… but then maybe it was her effervescence that was the only real life he ever had…..


  2. Perfect. Precise and not a wasted word. Absolutely minimal use of adverbs and adjectives which means the real words are doing all the work which is why it reads so professional and smooth and stylish. I didn’t know there were rules of what is and isn’t flash fiction. Oh well, just more rules for me to break, I suppose. You are a truely exceptional writer, easily one of the best in bloggoland. (Oh and minimal commas which is a surprisingly important stylistic thingy which you have totally under control as well as everythingelse.) You are Lissa!


  3. beautiful, very moving, very, your prose is so very good because of the careful way you set a scene then have the very realistic characters interact……..what a writer you are! (I’m repeating myself 😉 but there are some things that bear repeating).


  4. Yes, this is definitely flash fiction. And simply mahvelous. As someone said earlier, not a wasted word. Descriptive yet simple.

    This is why I like you, Lissa. Keep at it . . .


  5. A perfect portrait of a scene. You’ve really got at a sense of loss here. The silence, the circling the past — compelling.


  6. i love/admire how you put be right inside your prose.

    So naturaL your writing, as if your memories are my
    own, the delicate details and the respect you give/
    show each of your chracters, bring thme to life.

    kind eerie, my little piece has ripples of yours, so glad
    to have found your excellent blog.


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