Last Friday night on Long Island

night hawks

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?

8 comments to Last Friday night on Long Island

  • Deborah

    I’ve been mentally calculating when I’d have to leave for the 12 hr. drive to join you at the restaurant this Fri. to hear the rest of the story (providing they show up there again, too).

    I know Germans have the term “earworm” for a tune that you can’t get out of your head. Is there a similar tune for an image or story that you can’t shake? And isn’t it the job of writers to infect people with those worms?

  • Sandy in Guilford CT

    Ohhhh no, to weird for me -buy some frozen dinners and stay home safe and sound – go with your husb if you must!!! Humm earworm – I get those quite often too, usually some stupid jingle.

  • Sandy in Guilford CT

    Ohhhh no, too weird for me -buy some frozen dinners and stay home safe and sound – go with your husb if you must!!! Humm earworm – I get those quite often too, usually some stupid jingle.

  • Deborah

    Term. I meant term: Is there a similar TERM for an image or story that you can’t shake? (I hate when I do that!)

  • Rachel

    There is no way I can make it from San Diego to meet you and Deborah there, but you are certainly my designees in finding out *the rest of the story.* Could you go ahead of time and bug the table?

    Yes, the job of the writer is to draw us in, develop the scene, and leave us wanting to know MORE. A story *haunts me* if I cant get it out of my thoughts, even though I am done reading it. But we do need that perfect mot juste.

  • Nadine

    I’m dealing with the earworm term. I see those lovely bugs with pincers that they put in people’s ears in sci fi films that make them crazy. this is going to stay for a while

    I was going to tell you get a wig and join them for a highball and see whose going to jail. and then tell me. or i could wait in the car.

  • carolyn

    OK. You owe it to the rest of us to get yourself to that bar next Friday night and at least attempt to find out the rest of the story. But yes, take someone with you! I can’t stand not knowing the end of the story—-which often leaves me up until way past midnight watching the end of a movie that my husband turned on in the first place and then abandoned because he had the good sense to know there was a stupid ending coming!

    Earworm is a good term—just as disgusting annoying as the thing that drives you crazy for days. And for me it is often DAYS. I try to sing other songs just to get rid of the pending infection!

  • Oh yes please! I definitely cannot make it there in time (from Norwich UK) but I do need to know the rest of the story. Especially since you chose one of my favourite pictures to start the tale!

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