Saturday, April 13, 2024

Dinner on a Golden Day

The weather was beautiful.  After a brief workout, I lay by the pool for an even briefer 20 minutes, ten per side.  It was lovely.  Then home to get cleaned up and eat a salmon salad sandwich., drink water which I then turned into wine, and scan more film.  It was early-ish when I went to mother's.  We sat outside and drank a beer.  I wondered what I might eat for dinner.  I had two invitations to go out, but as reported, I have been living a quiet life.  And that is what I told each of my friends.  I wasn't in the mood for rowdy boy company.  

When I got home, I drank a Campari on the deck with the cats.  It was nowhere near dark as the sun doesn't set here until very late now.  Though I didn't want boy company, I also didn't feel like sitting home alone with another solitary meal.  I thought I looked swell, so I jumped in the car and headed the half mile to my favorite Italian restaurant.  It would surely be crowded.  I had no hope of finding parking nearby nor a seat at the bar, but I was chill about it.  I'd be good.  

But I did find nearby parking.  "Score," I thought.  And walking up the street, I saw two seats at the outside bar--which a couple nabbed just before I got there.  The inside bar was full, too.  I stood behind a group of people who were standing and sitting and milling about in a general Friday night way.  The barmaid, not one I am on kibitzing terms with, smiled and mouthed, "Can I get you something."  I don't think she actually spoke.  I ordered a Chianti Classico.  The wine is rough in the mouth, and though I never buy it for the house, I almost always have it here.  

"Do you want to keep the check open?" she asked.  

"Yes.  When I can get a seat, I'm going to eat."

The man standing before me was wearing some hideous fashion version of a Hawaiian shirt, probably from Tommy Bahama.  He was loud and animated, but to be friendly I said to him, "I think I am on your tab now."  He didn't laugh.  He just turned and looked at me, then turned away.  


But in a minute he said, "Those women are hairdressers.  They are going to leave in a minute.  They have to go back to work."

"O.K.  Thanks.  It's a nice evening.  I'm chill."

In a minute, one of them got up.  The man turned to me and said, "One of them just left.  You'd better hurry.  You can't sleep around here."

I nodded and sauntered the few feet down the bar.  The man yelled down, "Did she leave?"

She had.  I smiled and slid in next to a pretty, petite woman in a black skintight dress and what I must say were the most beautiful tats on her hand I have ever seen--and I am not a fan.  She smiled at me and turned away to face her friend.  Her back would remain turned to me for the rest of the night.  On the other side of me were two women that the man in the hideous shirt had been chatting up.  They were the typical 50's matrons in this town, not unattractive but of the well-worn mindset of their social clan.  Now that I was seated, I asked the barmaid for a menu.  I wanted something light.  I scanned the menu, but nothing jumped out at me.  

"What can I get you," she asked when she returned. 

"I can never pronounce it.  I'll have the chicken scarpialan something or other."

She laughed.  "Yea, I know what you mean."

The women on my left were talking about hair.  The one on the other side of the girl in the black dress was big and loud.  A short Italian man with grey hair walked over to greet them.  I heard the big girls say she just had a hip replacement.  On my right, the man with the hideous shirt was talking to the women about tennis.  

"Oh, I play a lot of tennis.  I did."

"Where did you play?"

He told them.  Then he pointed to the vertical scars on each knee.  He had fallen down the steps at the club, he said, right on his knees.  His patellas were pushed up to his thighs.  He'd had surgery.  They had re-attached his tendons and ligaments.  He had been in leg braces for five months and had months of therapy.  I looked him over.  He didn't look like an athlete.  He looked like a guy who had never exercised much in his life.  It wasn't just his legs.  His entire body looked bloated and soft.  His pot belly hung inside his Hawaiian shirt like a tub of guts.  His face was fat and bloated.  

"I was really pretty good," he said.  I doubted that.  He had a face that couldn't quite seem to smile.  When he tried, or at least I thought he tried, it came as a grimace.  

"Have you tried paddle ball?" one of the women asked.  

"No.  I've seen it.  It is a stupid game," he spat.  

"Oh. . . it is a social thing.  It is fun."

The woman who said that had apparently spent a lot of time in the sun.  Her bare arms showed it.  She was from West Palm Beach, she said.  So.  A piece of the puzzle.  Not Palm Beach.  The other side of the river.  She said she played tennis.  She was on a team.  I wasn't familiar with the concept.  The man in the hideous shirt said his sister played on a team.  Did she know her.  They kibitzed about that for a bit.  

Just then, the barmaid brought me some bread and olive oil with Basalmic and smiled.  I mention the smile because the other barmaid was the strikingly beautiful one with the killer eyes who seems to hate me.  She will be friendly to other patrons, but when she looks at me, she just nuts up.  She has never smiled at me once.  She was definitely not going to serve me.  I have no idea why this is, but it is.  Maybe one day I'll ask her.  

The woman from West Palm turned to me and picked up the menu beside me.  She looked, then said, "Oh, I thought this was the food menu."  

"I just gave it back," I said.  

"You got bread.  That looks good."

I slid the tray toward her.  "Here," I said.  

"Really?  You don't mind?"

"If I eat all that, I'll be big as a house.  Well, I already am, but, you know. . . two houses."

"Oh, no you are not," she laughed.  "Thank you," she said as she dipped in.  "What did you order?"

"I can never say it."  And I repeated my messed up version of the name.  Then her friend said it correctly.  

"I love that," she said.  I nodded.  

Just then, the barmaid brought my plate of food.  

"Oh. . . that DOES look good."  

The girls on my left were still talking about hair, something about a foil, two foils and color. . . .

"I think you should just charge by the hour.  That's a complicated thing.  I want to make at least one hundred dollars an hour," said the one with the new hip.  

"I love my job," said the pretty girl with her back to me.  "There is only one other thing I would enjoy doing." 

She wanted to learn to be a tattoo artist.  She was going to buy a machine.  They were fairly expensive.  She wanted to do small tats, little things like hearts.  She needed people to practice on.  

"You can practice on me," said the girl with the new hip enthusiastically.

"I could just do these little tattoos on my day off, on Mondays, and make like a thousand dollars."

On another night, I might have been in misery sitting between these conversations, but I wasn't.  The late afternoon/early evening was beautiful.  I wasn't putting out any energy jousting with the boys.  I was just chilling, eating dinner, and drinking wine among the throng.  

Just then, down the bar, the couple I saw last time I ate here took two chairs.  It was the woman with the tight, shiny skin.  She was facing me now and I could see that she was attractive, at lest from this distance.  Her face was distinctive, the sort you would remember seeing.  She looked at me for a moment then looked away.  

I signaled the barmaid.  

"Could I get a Sambuca please?"

I looked around.  The sidewalk tables were full.  People were standing in line, waiting.  I checked my phone.  It was 7:30.  The sun was still shining.  O.K.  I called for my check.  I was glad I came out.  And without a girl of my own, I was glad I had come alone.  I felt good, relaxed.  

That night, I had the most wonderful dreams.  I didn't wake up, but I remember them, remember smiling in my sleep.  I want to keep that vibe going today.  I just want to keep smiling.  

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