The sky hangs low and gray. Raindrops sputter down— an intermittent mist.
In Geneva, there is a one-way street in the middle of town. It is crisscrossed above by strings of bulbous lights, and as the gray sky descends toward brooding charcoal twilight, the bulbs flash on, merry and yellow.
The street is lined by cars, the sidewalk by stores and restaurants; the restaurant signs swing in the limpid breeze. We huddle in a doorway. Hoods up. Collars popped. We blink into growing plops of rain. Passing people throw us curious glances. We are the last lingerers— the last of the line of hungry people who had been scattered down the sidewalk waiting, hiding in the doorways of closed storefronts, browsing our luminous phone screens.
I marvel at how strange it is to leave our dry house on a gray evening and drive an hour away to sit at a stranger’s table and eat their food. How, at the same time, it is uniquely wonderful— to sit in a room full of strangers and watch their food-laden trays pass your nose, trailing scents that make your stomach rumble. Nowhere else do we gather— back to back, jowl to jowl— and speak louder and without fear of over-perked ears or eavesdropping neighbors. Office gossip, family laundry, hopes and fears ascend and reverberate against the tin ceiling. A cacophony of anonymity. A dissonance under-girded by knives and forks and thumping glasses.
The waitress seats us at the same table as last time. Her eyes flash surprise through her ink-framed face. “Oh— hi! You’re back.” Her tattooed hands clap loudly in the din. “We love when people come back.”
She brings us beers and large plates of barbecue, and my boyfriend and I lean back in our seats to consider all of the things: the architecture of the room, the succulence of the meat as it passes from our forks, the three years we’ve been together that feel more like three minutes. The room slowly empties of people like a loosened flask dripping water drop by drop, but we don’t notice.
The food and the evening and the beer make us warm.
When we leave, the waitress says, “Until next time,” with a smile.
I step down into the tepid spring evening beneath the crisscrossing yellow bulbs and smile to myself at the idea of next time.
My boyfriend tucks my arm under his.
Maybe he’s thinking of next time, too.
© 2022 Katie Baker
Nowhere else do we gather— back to back, jowl to jowl— and speak louder and without fear of over-perked ears or eavesdropping neighbors. Office gossip, family laundry, hopes and fears ascend and reverberate against the tin ceiling.Tweet