The Things Unsaid

Caitryn Tronoski, Editor-in-Chief

Dinner took too long to make again.

We were supposed to have lasagna, but nobody pre-heated the oven and the lasagna took an hour to bake. By the time we were ready to eat it was almost seven o’clock and I was hungry.

I wasn’t as hungry as before, though. I tried to distract myself by setting the table and putting out the parmesan cheese and drinking some water, but eventually the hunger got to me and I had to eat something. I avoided my dad’s eyes as he watched me in the pantry, but I could still feel the judgement coming off in waves.

Mom came out of her office just as I took the lasagna out of the oven. It was the first time I’d seen her today.

She said “I’ll be right down,” and went right upstairs to change clothes. Mom chose to wear formal outfits every day even though she worked from home and her business partners only ever saw her from the waist up in Zoom meetings.

I texted my sister to come down from her room. She didn’t like when people opened her door, or even knocked on it. I carried the lasagna to the table and sat down. My dad put down his old iPad and shuffled over to his seat next to me.

My sister opened the gate at the top of the stairs and came down. She washed her hands at the kitchen sink and poured herself a glass of chocolate milk.

I could feel my dad’s eyes on the chocolate milk and looked down.

“Are you sure you want chocolate milk with lasagna?” he asked. My sister shrugged aggressively and brought her drink to the table.

Mom came downstairs and pulled out a chair. She was wearing a sweatshirt now, instead of her work blazer.

“I have a call at 7:15,” she said. “If we’re not done, just leave everything here and I’ll wash the dishes.”

Mom hadn’t made it through a full dinner in a month.

Everyone sat looking at the dishes, waiting for each other to take their share first. Too hungry and impatient, I grabbed the salad bowl and took some for myself.

My mom cut my sister a piece of lasagna. I offered the salad to my dad, but he gestured to let everyone else take some first.

What was the use of letting other people take first if they were already taking something different? He already looked weird sitting there with an empty plate.

As soon as it was my dad’s ‘turn’ to take lasagna, our dog came out from under the table to sit by the back door. He looked at us imploringly. Dad pushed back from the table and stood up, sighing under his breath as he pulled on his boots.

“I can take him out,” said Mom halfheartedly. We all knew she didn’t really want to.

“It’s fine,” said Dad, “just start without me.” He slammed the back door hard on the way out.

Mom gave a sigh of her own.

“How’s he been today?” she asked. My sister and I both shrugged and stared at our plates.

Dad came back in, wiping his boots off on the mat and going over to wash his hands again. Pippin shook the snow off his fur and jumped on the couch to lay down.

We started eating. I always hated this part the most.

“What happened in school today, Cal?” I asked my sister.

“Stuff,” she said, shutting down that line of conversation. I nodded.

Knives clinked on the plates.

“Thanks for making dinner,” said Mom.

“No problem,” I said, and sprinkled parmesan on my lasagna.

We lapsed into silence.

“I think I’ll try to get to bed before nine o’clock tonight,” said Dad. He said that every night, but he never got to bed earlier than ten.

Nobody responded.

I finished my food and looked around. Everyone was still eating.

“You want another piece of lasagna?” Mom asked. “We still have half the tray.”

“No thanks,” I replied. I just wanted to go upstairs.

“You’re probably not hungry at dinner because you eat so much in the afternoon,” said my dad.

The silence seemed to grow even bigger than before. I knew I should’ve just waited. I reached for the salad bowl- I couldn’t stand to sit there in silence while everyone else was still finishing.

My sister finished her lasagna and went to clear her plate.

“I can clear the plates at the end,” I said to her, trying to make my voice sound as light as possible. I always cleared the plates at the end.

She glared at me. “No, it’s fine.”

I looked back down and fiddled with my napkin.

Our silence was mercifully interrupted by the ring of my mother’s work phone. It was 7:15. She stood up, almost eagerly.

“I have to take this,” she said, pushing back from the table, and then she was gone, closing the door to her office again with a “Hey, Jonathan! How are you? No, I’m not doing anything right now.”

I’d grown not to care that she had been doing something.

It was just my dad and I eating, now, and my sister sitting across from me with her arms crossed.

Dad was finished with his food, and now they were both staring at me. I started to shovel the rest of the salad into my mouth. I couldn’t throw it out, even if I didn’t want it.

“Sorry,” I said through a mouthful of food, “you don’t have to wait if you don’t want to.”

“It’s fine,” said my dad. But he still stared at me, impatient for dinner to be over so he could go back to ‘work’, which actually meant scrolling through news headlines on his ancient iPad like they were social media. I kept shoveling my food.

A few minutes later, I was done.

“I can take plates,” I said. My father nodded and said thank you, but he had already piled up the rest of the plates in front of me. I always cleared the plates at the end.

Dad stood up and went back to his iPad. My sister climbed the stairs back up to her bedroom. I put the dishes in the dishwasher. The lasagna stayed on the table, where it would get cold waiting for Mom to end her phone call.

I didn’t care. I would rather have eaten alone.