“There’s a couple for you. Look at them!” laughed one of the assistant managers.
“Ha! Yeah, right. I’d say they’re…” kidded the other, but he stopped when he saw me watching them.
The married one of the two looked around to see who else was listening, then dipped his head and mumbled something else about whomever they were looking at through the front door. They both laughed some more. I felt a little like I had snuck into the boy’s locker room. But I will admit to being somewhat curious about the topic of their testosterone-laden banter. When I looked outside, however, all I saw was a homeless woman a half block away, and a mother pushing a stroller.
A half hour later, I saw a couple pause outside before they came into the foyer. They had their arms around each other. And when he kissed her, she kissed him back with subtle but such strong feeling, that I had to look away. Not because it was a ridiculous public display of affection. Quite the contrary, I looked away because the emotion both invested in this one kiss outside my restaurant on a rainy night was so quietly one of absolute love and adoration, so privately held in this public spot, that I felt like an intruder, even though the couple didn’t know or care that I saw them.
And when they entered the foyer and he announced: “We are really looking forward to our night out, but we have to get in and out fast because of our baby sitter,” I marveled at the passion these two had at this point in their relationship. It’s not so easy to remember how to feel passion in the evening when sitters and diapers and nap schedules rule the day. I remember those days. And it made me yearn for those days.
During the next hour, women, mostly older than younger, arrived in groups of two and three, parading through the bar area. Some were hesitant, unsure and clearly wondering whether this was the magical spot to perch and wait for a long-shot knight to come along. Others were quite sure, or they were sure they didn’t care, because men are men, and so many men were at the bar on this rainy night. They pushed their fingers through their hair and sat up straight and laughed with one another as they looked over each other’s shoulders to see if one of those men had noticed their smiles. And when the men didn’t notice, they left, as they came in.
I watched one couple nuzzle one another throughout their drinks and then kiss deeply and murmur to one another after their appetizers. I looked away from them, too, but this time, because I was embarrassed by their public display.
“Look at them! Geez, get a room,” grumbled the manager I was working with, before he laughed and said to me, “You know?”
And later, I saw that woman sitting on the edge of the ladies room sink, softly crying.
I know that, too.
At a very late hour, a princess on the last edge of the cusp of adolescence came into the bar with her dad. She was dressed in sequins and a crown and even held a wand. Her hair hung in ringlets around her peaches-and-cream cheeks. She had clearly just come from being in a performance of some sort, and she promised to be a beauty, a knockout actually, in several very short years. Maybe only months.
“Look at them,” said the manager I was working with. “You know what he is telling her?” he asked, never expecting me to answer. “Honey, I am so sorry I am not always there when you need me. I really want to be. And you make me so proud tonight.”
I stared at this manager, speechless, because the words didn’t at all match up with the manager I know. Did his daughter know how he felt? Had he ever made it out to dinner with her to tell her?
I recently met an older gentleman who lost his young wife–a wife who was my age–only a year ago. He had adored her for 20 years. He continues to adore her memory. He would like to adore me. But he knows, because I told him so, he cannot.
He hates weekends, he says, because “the days go on forever.” He hates it that his friends don’t know what to say to him, what to do with him. “I built a life of security for her because she married an older man,” he smiled into his Scotch. “And here I am.”
Mostly, alone is fine. Sometimes, it’s just damn lonesome. Especially when you look at them, and you look just like them.