First marriage, first party, first apartment.
I invited our boss the principal, and his wife,
both from the States, who I wished would
ask us over but who never did, so that
sometimes I cried after lunch in the bathroom
at school. On a concrete ledge beside the bed
in the one-room apartment, I placed
candles and a potted white chrysanthemum,
marked down at Delhaize, where I bought
haché de boeuf for my special meatloaf
and red-black wine in a plastic bottle.
At seven, when the guests arrived, I started
cooking the meatloaf and making apple pie.
In the pocket-sized kitchen, I finished the pie
and fixed the salad as my husband and guests
drank that wine, gazing despondently
out the window at the barges on the Meuse.
We ate at half past ten. The meatloaf
was a failure, the hardboiled eggs baked
in the meatloaf had turned rubbery and gray,
the wine could peel paint. My husband
struggled to keep up conversation.
The principal’s wife smirked, said, Oh my,
you don’t know about the chrysanthemums?
. . .