Sidewalk Table


The other night, I walked in the apartment and didn’t feel like I was going to die. This was a new development. I’d been sick all winter.

But, it seemed, while working in the sunshine, my health had returned. The flowers were bursting apart again beside the sidewalks with little signs that said ‘NO DOGS ON OUR FLOWERS PLEASE!’, and the ice cream man could be heard again making his cruel rounds up and down the other blocks besides ours.

It was a warm night even. The first warm night in 100,000 years.

I took a seat in the red chair by the window, enjoying the warm breeze coming in off the river. The sky was just a little yellow at sunset and I wondered if it would turn into a thunderstorm. Instead of checking the weather, I sent my wife a text.

“You want to meet for dinner?”

“Owwww, on a weeknight?” she wrote back.

“Yeah, feeling good,” I wrote.

She was on the way to a doctor’s appointment, I still had to shower. We’d meet on 81st street, at a Thai restaurant on the corner.  Forty five minutes. That was the plan.

***

And look at me—motherfucking-on-time! I came up out of the subway and the streets were slick with rain. While I was underground there’d been a downpour that I’d missed. Praise the gods. But up there was the purple sky, the clouds were moving fast, almost gone and I couldn’t see the stars anyway but, there it was, the slutty moon.

I took my wrinkled poka dot shirt off, so I was just in a black t-shirt. I carried the shirt in hand like it was a weird weapon. A paperback book was tucked under my other arm.

There’s a bar next door to the Thai restaurant with walls lined with verse, the place is called fittingly, The Dead Poet. I peeked in and considered a beer while I waited for Spout. But I was happy to see the Thai place had tables set up on the sidewalk.

It was nice enough to sit outside and eat? Yes! It was! That was like a concept I’d completely forgotten. Winter dumped continuous snow on New York City, I was still getting reacquainted with what spring could be.

Instead of getting the beer at Dead Poet, I parted the sea of people on the sidewalk. All the outside tables were full, people (usually grouped together in four or more) stood waiting for available tables inside or outside—I knew from experience, it was a half hour+ wait. My watch said that I was fifteen minutes early. I stepped through the door. The hostess took my name.

“Table for two.”

“No problem. You both here?”

“Yes,” I said automatically.

“Outside or in?”

“Outside.” Of course!

“No problem.” She grabbed two menus, and together we headed back out into the throngs of peeps waiting to sit.

She pointed at a table that’d gotten soaked by the surprise storm. “You want to sit  there? I’ll get it all cleared and set up nice.”
It was on the edge of the sitting area, nearest the sidewalk. I love sitting out there. Seldom do I actually get to.

“Yup, perfect.”

“Where’s your other party?” she asked. They usually don’t wanna sit you until everyone is there.

“My wife is over there …” I pointed across the street at a bar on the corner, “she’s using the ATM. Be just a minute.”

The hostess nodded. I stood patiently and waited while a bus boy came and fixed the table all nice. Wiping everything down.

As I sat, the phone buzzed.

The text said, “Running late, be there in … 15?”

I took off my dress shirt and put it on the back of what would be her chair. I’d been editing my own novel on the subway, I placed that where her plate would be.

Then I sat there, doing nothing. I didn’t even fuck around with my cellphone. I’d look at the people on the sidewalk, then I’d look at the moon, then I’d look at a bunch of balloons stuck in the trees. My fingers didn’t even tap the top of the table. My hands were perfectly still. The first warm night and a table on the street will do that to you.
The waitress was concerned though.

“You alone?” She regarded my shirt on the chair. “Waiting for someone?”

“My wife is at the ATM.” I pointed off in the vague distance.
I knew the menu already. I knew the drinks they made there, the cocktails anyway. I said,

“Tell you what, I’ll order drinks now. I’d like a bourbon. And for her,” I pointed to my invisible date, “she’ll take two shots of tequila on ice with  lemon and ginger, please.”
She nodded and was gone. I stole an umbrella from the table next to me because they weren’t using it. I’d spied the clouds coming back, they figured rain would never happen again.

Things that happened while I waited for my drink: a couple started arguing in front of the bar next door, the guy had pretty severe armpit sweat, the girl was holding a glass of beer that wasn’t supposed to be out on the sidewalk (there’s important invisible lines, ya know?); also, a long haired man zoomed by on a bicycle, an elderly woman stepped out to try and hail a cab, but the cab already had fare so wasn’t stopping anyway, the guy on the bicycle yelled at the woman, “OUT OF THE WAY, ASSHOLE!” He narrowly missed colliding with her. She stepped back onto the sidewalk full of shock/rage. I enjoyed that, it’s cool to me when some stranger calls a stranger an asshole; then, it started to rain again for about a minute, but I didn’t care because I was under the small umbrella.

“Hey, can we get our umbrella back?”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” I said.

“Why?”

“I’m not supposed to get wet, I multiply. Also, I can’t eat chicken after midnight.”
The drinks came. The waitress dumped them off quick and then ducked for cover back in the restaurant.

I drank my bourbon pretty quick. Before the rain stopped even. Ha! Look at that, all these wet people eating nice food on a beautiful night. It’s enough to make a man sing. I was intending on waiting for Spout, but I failed, I began to sip her drink. That’s life. Halfway through the glass, people on the street were complaining to the hostess, “Is our table ready yet?”

I saw the hostess glare out at me.

“Where is your wife?” she said.

“Had to go to another ATM,” I said, “They were all out of hundred dollar bills.”

I finished my wife’s drink. The waitress got my signal through the plate glass window. Two, I pantomimed, two fingers up like a peace sign.

I folded the umbrella up,. There was the moon, all impossible and shit. I could fuck it, I really could.

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