A restaurant god exists somewhere out there, I am convinced, for the sole purpose of sending in a wonderful guest just when you despair that human beings are at their most hideous when they go out to dine.
She came in exactly at five o’clock when we opened, pausing at the bar to chat with another woman. Must be a local, I figured.
“Hi dear,” she smiled at me, patting her damp grey curls and pressing the back of her small hand against her powder-pink cheek in an effort to dab up a faint sheen of moisture. Her petite frame stood no more than 5 feet tall.
“I walked over here from the hotel, where the airline put me,” she said. “It’s a little warm for someone my age, especially after I swam my two laps,” she continued to smile. The natural creases and lines that marked decades of laughter and obvious happiness enhanced her mature beauty.
“That woman I just spoke to was at the pool when I was there,” she continued. “I really don’t remember her name, though,” she whispered and winked.
I smiled back.
“It’s just me. And I don’t want to take any of your good tables,” she said with a hint of maternal authority. “Right over there by the kitchen is fine.”
I seated her at a deuce nowhere near the kitchen, where she could easily watch the bar action and still be out of the fray.
“Oh this is just lovely,” she said as I handed her a menu.
“Would you like a wine list?” I asked her.
“No, dear, no wine tonight,” she smiled. “What I would like is to order the most colorful, fun martini you yourself would want to drink.”
“You see, when you get to be my age, and the airline cancels your flight, then tries to put you on another that connects three times and doesn’t get you home until long past midnight, you can throw a tantrum!”
“And I did,” she went on. “I threw a polite tantrum, but it was a tantrum, nevertheless! I told the agent, ‘At my age, you cannot expect me to change planes three times and have to walk through all those airports, much less arrange for transportation to get me home alone that late at night!”
You go girl.
“And you know, they didn’t argue with me a bit,” she smiled once again, her pride and pleasure quite evident. “They put me up in that beautiful hotel a few blocks away–and truly, the room is magnificent. I spoke to the concierge, and he suggested I have dinner here, so here I am!” she concluded.
May I please be your adopted granddaughter?
“Now, about that fun martini. What do you suggest?” she smiled again at me.
I grabbed our fru-fru drink list and returned to her table. It was early, quiet. I could spend as much time as I wanted with this beautiful lady.
“Well, a lot of people like anything pink,” I laughed as I scanned the choices.
“No, no pink,” she replied. “And I would bet you don’t like the pink drinks, either. You select the exact martini you would have.”
Frankly, I am not much of a martini drinker, but now and then….
“Well, how about a blue martini?” I asked, reciting the simple ingredients. I am a sucker for blue curacao, particularly in a margarita, but I figured she wasn’t a margarita kind of gal, at least not on this night.
“Oh that sounds different and fun!” she exclaimed.
I have to commend the bartender for really doing it right for this wonderful guest. The crystal blue concoction was perfectly poured, with tiny ice slivers around the rim, a cherry nestled in the bottom of the chilled glass and a spiraled twist of lemon floating on top. Yum.
She was mesmerized when I carefully placed it on her table.
“I have never seen such a pretty cocktail!” she smiled.
Would that I could have joined her.
Throughout her meal, she told me how she had left upstate New York for a brief, solo vacation away from the cold weather. “I stayed at my nephew’s house about 20 miles north,” she explained. “He wasn’t there with his family, though. It was just me, and I had a very nice time.”
I believed her. But I also suspect she would have enjoyed it a little more had her nephew and his family been with her for at least part of the time.
“My dear, I cannot thank you enough for this wonderful evening,” my guest said an hour later. “At my age, you need to have something unexpected happen to remind you how fun it can be when it does.”
Please stay another day. Maybe two. We’ll hang out. We’ll see the sights, take the Conch Train, go to wonderful restaurants for lunch and dinner, maybe even take a sunset cruise–do all the Key West things I haven’t yet done, nor likely ever will. I need you to share the secret of harnessing the positive wisdom you have obviously acquired, and then show me how to live it every single day.
“Could you write down the recipe for this martini before I go?” she asked. “I am going to serve it at my next book club gathering. Of course, they’ll all have to spend the night after just one, but it’s okay, they’re all women!” she laughed.