Max was lonely.
The tears that soaked her face fell freely after her second glass of wine. The hot pink straw that she stuck from the top of the mini box of red wine made her feel as if she were having an after school snack when she accompanied it with a $1 bag of Hot Cheetos. She knew that at nearly 40 having this as a daily pre-dinner snack wasn't going to do much good in her life, but every evening when she picked up her bag from Ali at the convenience store and rounded the corner to buy her easily flattened, 2 1/2 glasses of wine from The Grapevine, she promised herself it would be the last time. But, as she licked the orange powder from the tips of her fingers, she knew better than to lie to herself. She loved to nibble the little bits of the salty crumbs that would rest in the bottom of a bag that had been dropped a few times. She told herself they were good luck and that her evening would go better if she had lots of crumbs.
Stuart hated when Max ate shitty food. He'd look at her from across the table at restaurants when she'd spread butter on her bread or order a meal with more carbs than protein. He'd chew his salad his predetermined 30 times per forkful and with measured words explain to her how each bite mattered and that masticating his food was an aid to his entire system. He'd been trying to convince her of his baby-bird methodology since they'd met 15 years ago, but it wasn't working.
The Cheetos had started out innocently enough. A simple rebellion against the tyranny of kale salads and cold salmon. They were her taste of freedom that reminded her of her childhood when no one watched her plate and controlled her life.
"If you want to get serious about our starting a family, you're going to have to really look at what you're willing to give up, Max," he had whispered this in her ear while she put a few pieces of cheese on her plate at her coworker's birthday party. The cheese table was always the highlight of parties for Max. She could lose herself in the good ones, mixing combinations of fruit pastes topped with stinky brined cheeses that tasted expensive and foreign. Stuart hated dairy. He had made Max promise to give it up. And, like the other things that she had loved, she'd given them up for the most part, but not indulged herself whenever she could. He'd chastise her like a child, making her feel small and worthless. Somehow the two years of their unsuccessfully trying to have a baby had become her issue, though she was quite certain it had more to do with his suffocated testicles that endured 50-mile bike rides every weekend through the hills of Fairfield County, and not her indulging in the occasional bit of raw cheese.
Max sucked down the last of the wine listening to it gurgle up through her reusable straw that she'd wash out and put back in the baggie in the bottom of her purse. She'd flatten the box and listen as the air hissed out in the sink under the pressure of her palm. In the bathroom, she'd wrap the rinsed out carton in a maxi pad rapper and stuff it in the trashcan beneath her side of the bathroom vanity.
The wine allowed her to relax a little into herself. Brushing her teeth and washing her face, she'd feel her skin flush with relief. She could get through the three and a half hours he'd be awake before he'd climb in bed by 9:30.
Alone she'd sit listening to the traffic slowing on the Merrit and the night fading around her until tomorrow.