The Dress-up Dinner
Ronnie nally comes to visit me in my basement and says, “I’m on my way home, so I only have a few minutes.”
As I nish my set of bench presses, I smirk because I know what that statement means. Veronica does not know he has come to see me, and Ronnie needs to keep it quick if he does not want to get caught doing something without Veronica’s permission—something like saying hello to his best friend, whom he has not seen for a long time.
When I sit up, he says, “What happened to your face?”
I touch my forehead. “My hands slipped yesterday, and I dropped the bar on myself.” “And it made your cheek all puffy like that?”
I shrug because I do not really want to tell him my father punched me.
“Man, you really have trimmed down and bulked up. I like your gym,” he says, eyeballing my weight bench and Stomach Master 6000, and then he sticks out his hand. “Think I could come over and work out with you?”
I stand, shake his hand, and say, “Sure,” knowing the question is only yet another one of Ronnie’s false promises.
“Listen, I’m sorry I never came to see you when you were in Baltimore, but we had Emily, and well, you know how it is. But I felt like the letters kept us close. And now that you’re home, we can hang out all the time, right?”
“As if—,” I start to say, but then bite my tongue. “As if—what?”
“You still think Veronica hates you?” I keep my mouth shut.
He smiles and says, “Well, if she hated you, would she be inviting you over for dinner tomorrow night?”
I look at Ronnie, trying to gauge whether he is serious or not.
“Veronica’s making a big meal to welcome you home. So are you coming, or what?”
“Sure,” I say, still not believing my ears, because Ronnie’s promises usually do not come with specific words like “tomorrow” attached.
“Great. Be at my house at seven o’clock for drinks. Dinner’s at eight, and it’s going to be one of the wife’s formal candlelit three-course meals, so wear something nice, okay? You know how Veronica is about her dress-up dinners,” he says, and then hugs sweaty
me, which I tolerate only because I am so shocked by Veronica’s invitation. With a hand on my shoulder, Ronnie looks me in the eye and says, “Man, it’s good to have you home, Pat.”
As I watch him jog up the stairs, I think about how much trash Nikki and I would talk about Ronnie and Veronica if apart time were over and Nikki was going to the dress-up dinner with me.
“Dress-up dinner,” Nikki would say. “Are we in elementary school?” God, Nikki hates Veronica.