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 tonic. Your cocktail arrives along with a menu. You drink your cocktail, page through the menu and you're surprised how beautiful raw vegetables can be. And not normally but the ones in the pictures in the menu are and they’re so beautiful you think you might just order and not eat but look at the plate and admire the creation, the placement, the colors connecting and contrasting in harmony--now it's late, you think, 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 but you remember what attracted you to him in the first place: a self-imposed neo-Quaker lifestyle (his words, not yours) which means: no 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 shaved yucca and kale (or is it chard?) and the waiter nods and walks away. You wait, drinking your drink. You finish the vodka tonic and ask for another. Or you try to but the waiter is gone and you look around for him and notice all the others, the people in the restaurant, eating and smiling, talking, laughing, having fun. They make you happy, seeing them around you. You look at the empty chair across the table and your sadness is felt more now than ever before. The waiter is back, your appetizer has arrived: three thin shavings of yucca over a bed of greens It's not beautiful at all, you think, and you look at the menu and then at the food, the real food in front of you, and back at the menu and you realize how ugly things can be. You look at it, for a while, and you think you might cry. He’s really late, and probably not coming, you think, and you decide to do that same thing the last time this happened: get completely wasted. You push aside the appetizer and call for the waiter, look him in the eye and order another vodka tonic—no, make it a whiskey neat, you tell him firmly, and make it a double too. And maybe some...bread? Do you guys have bread? No bread. OK, that’s fine, just bring me the whiskey, alright? I’ll be OK, you think, I always am. You believe this and tell yourself this happens to everyone, anyone really looking for someone to share their life with, 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 him anyways, you probably would do this 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 now 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.