February 4, 2013
You get off work. Shower. Shave. Comb your hair the way you know he’ll like it. You take out your nice clothes, just washed this morning because you knew it was tonight, and you even ironed them but really didn't need to and what the hell, you think, and you look in the mirror, grab your keys and cash and leave your house, excited, anxious, but more excited than anything. You arrive at the restaurant, park your car and walk inside. It’s downtown and not too nice but hip and you saw some good reviews about their American/Vietnamese (or was it Thai?) fusion and how they only use raw vegetables and fruits and never cook a single thing. And you don’t really care as long as it’s good, rather, the date, and the restaurant is half full and you’re quickly seated at your table, the one you reserved ten days ago. You order a vodka and tonic and wait. Your cocktail arrives, then a menu. You drink your cocktail and look at the menu. Once you've finished your drink, you order another and again look at the menu. It strikes you how beautiful raw vegetables can be, and not in general but the ones in the pictures and they’re so beautiful you think you might just order and not eat but stare at your plate, admiring the creation, the perfect placement, the colors connecting and contrasting in harmony, and then you think how it’s getting late and you look at your watch and try not to worry. He’s only a half-hour late. No big deal. You take out your phone and think to call him but remember what attracted you to him in the first place: a self-imposed neo-Quaker lifestyle (his words, not yours) which means not using computers, cars and, above all, mobile phones. You put away your phone, order another drink, look at the menu and all the pretty vegetables. You decide to order some food, an appetizer maybe, and you call the waiter and tell him you want the yucca and kale (or is it chard?) and the waiter doesn't say a word but writes your order down and walks away. You wait, drinking your drink and you finish and ask for another. Or you try to but the waiter is gone and you look at the others, the others in the restaurant, eating and smiling, talking and having a good time. This makes you happy, seeing them around you, but then you feel sad and jealous of them and then a little angry when your appetizer arrives and it’s smaller than you imagined it would be and not as beautiful either. You look at the menu and then at the food, the real food in front of you, and then back at the menu and realize how ugly it actually looks in real life. You stare at it for a while, thinking how upset you are and you feel you might cry because now he’s really late, about an hour, and he’s probably not coming at all. You think about what to do next and decide to do the last time this happened: get completely wasted. You push aside the food and call for the waiter, order another vodka and tonic—no, make it a whiskey neat, you tell the waiter, and make it a double too. And maybe some bread? Do you guys have bread? No bread. OK, that’s fine, just bring me a whiskey, OK? I’ll be alright, I always am, you think, and you want to believe this only happens to you but really it happens to everyone, anyone really looking for someone else to share their life, and it’s not that bad treating yourself to a date, a date with yourself and if you only knew earlier he wouldn't be coming and that you don’t really need anyone else, you probably would do it more often, because, after all, who needs people? Not me, you think, and your whiskey arrives and you pick up the glass, hold it up high as if making a toast and say: To me! To me! and you say it again but a little louder and people start to turn and stare. You stand up, still holding your glass high in the air, turn to everyone watching, smile and say: To me! and you begin to laugh but it’s more like a giggle when you notice a few people lift their glasses, some wine glasses and cocktail glasses, some water glasses and tumblers, and you’re surprised when you hear them say: to you! to you! to you! like a scattering of toasts around the dining room. You take a long look at all the people holding their glasses, turning and smiling and you put your own glass to your lips, tilt your head back and swallow the whiskey thinking how it goes down so smooth, so easy, without much effort at all.