The worst part wasn’t when they couldn’t get a table. It wasn’t when they put their name on the list and were told it would be an hour. It wasn’t when the hostess glanced at what they were wearing—t-shirts, swimsuits, flip flops—and emitted an audible sigh. It wasn’t when Don noticed how everyone else was dressed. It wasn’t when they left the restaurant and headed down the boardwalk, and tried three more places before concluding that they weren’t going to have any luck elsewhere. It wasn’t when Don suggested they eat a hot dog on a stick, and Clara glared at him and said that she didn’t travel six hundred miles to eat a hot dog on a stick. It wasn’t when they returned and Clara told Don that she was starting to feel lightheaded, that if she didn’t eat something soon she was going to faint. It wasn’t when, after some quiet bickering, Clara forced Don to again inquire with the hostess. It wasn’t when the hostess saw him and gave him a look as though he’d just emerged from a manhole cover. It wasn’t when she said it was still going to be an hour even though twenty minutes had already passed. It wasn’t when he returned and Clara was crying. It wasn’t when Clara was crying and Don, not knowing what to do, glanced at the baseball scores on his phone. It wasn’t when Clara told him that those scores must mean more to him than her. It wasn’t when Don, tired and sunburned, continued to ignore her. It wasn’t when an older couple asked Clara if everything was OK, or when they too scolded Don for ignoring his lovely, crying wife. It wasn’t when Don told them to mind their own goddamn business and left. It wasn’t when Clara came outside to see Don sharing a cigarette — which he’d given up years before, on Clara’s request — with a young woman in a bikini. It wasn’t the look she saw on his face as he spoke to her. It wasn’t when Clara told Don she was walking back to the hotel to see if their room was ready. It wasn’t when Don chased after her and apologized but Clara wouldn’t respond. It wasn’t the mile they walked in silence. It wasn’t when they returned to the hotel and learned it would be another two hours. It wasn’t when Don set a fifty on the counter and the panicked concierge told him to put it away. It wasn’t when Clara decided to wait in the lobby, while Don went down to the water to sit alone in the surf.
It was later that night, once they accessed their room, once they had something to eat. It was as they were lying in bed and watching TV, both waiting for the other to be the first to fall asleep.
David Byron Queen grew up in Northeast Ohio. Since graduating from The New School, he has worked as a dishwasher on a reality cooking show, a copywriter, and a script reader in Hollywood. His work is forthcoming in NANO Fiction and Fiction Advocate, and has also appeared in The Rumpus, Everyday Genius, Lumina Online, and VICE. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. Find him on Twitter at @byron_queen.