My husband is out of town this week and as he does the cooking, Friday night rolled around and all of a sudden I realized I was hungry for dinner. Hungry, like, right now. Hungry like I couldn’t even wait to check out the pantry (Is that what you call it? The place where the nice man I’m married to unloads all the stuff he got from the grocery store?), too hungry for just the brownies that I’d been eating for dinner since Wednesday.
So that’s how I ended up at the Chinese restaurant down the road, just off Exit 37 on the Long Island Expressway, at 8 o’clock on a Friday night, waiting at the bar for my take-out order of broccoli in garlic sauce.
At least I had a good excuse.
There’s a sushi bar next to the bar bar at this Chinese restaurant, like a sub-set of the entire bar area, and as I waited for my take-out order I watched the sushi chef carefully slice gooey fishy things and pat them onto ricey things and I thought, This is not where you end up — at a Chinese restaurant next to a Mobil station at Exit 37 of the Long Island Expressway — if you graduate at the top of your Sushi Making class.
Then I noticed that there was a guy sitting at one of the three tables in this sushi bar / bar bar, a paunchy middle aged guy, with two drinks on the table in front of him. Looked like Manhattans. Looked like he was waiting for someone. And moments later, when she arrived, she looked like the kind of girl who meets a guy for drinks on a Friday night at a Chinese restaurant at an eixt of the L.I.E. She was wearing a tired-looking leather jacket, had fluffy layered hair, and was carrying a large, baggy, leather purse that had lots of shiny metal bits decorating it. Not young, but not old. Looked like she’d come from work, looked like she worked in an office in a fancier part of town than where she lived. I’m just guessing.
She picked up her drink and sipped it through the red straw that was tilted against the side of her glass. I always wonder about women who drink cocktails through a straw. Are they trying to be refined? Or what? The guy picked up his drink and took a small sip and set it down and leaned back in his seat, his arm resting on the back of his chair. He seemed interested in what the girl had to say, but he had a half-smile on his face. The venetian blinds behind him were letting in an interestingly fractured view of the night, slick with rain and shimmering with the line of headlights from the cars passing by. That old Don Henly song was playing in the background, “The Boys of Summer”.
I watched them drink and chat to each other, wondering if this was a date, or were they already half-way through their affair, or are they just friends; what were the circumstances, the long series of cause and effect, coincidence and misunderstandings, the history of failure and second chances that fill the life of any of us who end up in the bar of a Chinese restaurant at Exit 37 on the Long Island Expressway on a cold and rainy Friday night.
And then I heard her say, “That’ll keep him out of jail until December.”
Oh, great, I sighed to myself. That’s what’s going to make this moment one of those memories that I’ll never be able to get rid of. Like my mind isn’t already cluttered with too many superficial and haphazard remembrances, too many irrelevant mental pictures of people (a guy, wearing a cloak, who I passed on the street in Dublin in 1985; some girl I saw in a paisley halter top at a Santana concert the day that Richard Nixon resigned, etc.) that crowd out the stuff I really should hang on to: the birthdays of my nieces and nephews (I have no idea), what the dentist said about that molar I’m worried about, where my husband told me he hid the Krugerrands.
My broccoli and garlic sauce came just then, and I put on my gloves and buttoned up my winter coat and I went out to my car and drove home. I’ve been humming “The Boys of Summer” for days.
I have two questions for you:
1. Does your mind work like that too? Like a Hoover, when you want it to work like a Vulcan Science Officer?
2. Should I go back to that Chinese restaurant next Friday night, hope those two people show up again to drink their Manhattans, and get to the bottom of that story?