Secure a roommate, check. Pay off my back rent, check. Perform a celebratory dance in the street like no one’s looking because I’m finally debt-free, check, check and check! Ugh! This feeling of things going just the way I wanted was so euphoric like, the high it gave was better than good music, good food, good sex even — and that’s saying something. These once-in-a-blue-moon vibes were way too special to let waste away on the sidewalk, and with a whole hour on my hands before my ride was due to arrive, I took this party of one, down a few blocks, to this expensive sushi-noodle place, for the dinner of all dinners.
The inside was packed, just as you would expect on a Saturday evening, in a restaurant of this caliber, but it was well worth the wait. Everything on the menu, and I mean everything looked delicious. My original plan was to order a whole smorgasbord of appetizers, entrees, and desserts, because I’m celebrating, right? But the tables were on the smaller side and could only house a few plates and maybe a couple of bowls; so after a round of cuts, mind changes, and complete inner turmoil, I narrowed my selections down to my top four dishes.
Once my order was in, the stars aligned — once again — and presented me with the best table in the entire restaurant! It was right in the window, in the furthest part of the dining room, tucked away just enough to grant privacy from the other diners, but close enough to give me a full view of everything. The low hanging blinds blocked out all of the sun’s harsh lighting, allowing the dimly lit candle to illuminate things with its own soft glow — elevating the whole private-dinner-vibe from a seven to a ten!
I took a sip of my drink and as the waitress and her crowded serving tray approached, swapped my glass for my phone, and sent my fingers to work on a decoy text. Once that was done, I kept my head down, avoiding eye contact, as she struggled to arrange everything in the limited dining space. Eventually, she figured out a functional layout and after blessing me with a bottle of sriracha, disappeared from the table without so much as one judgmental look. God, love this place!
Everything I needed for this dinner-to-remember was right in front of me, but a little entertainment would take this celebration to a whole new level. Fortunately, I came prepared with ear buds and a phone, fully stocked with the newest season of my favorite show, Graylight.
Before the opening scene even had a chance to finish, I was face down in my bowl of Pad Thai, chopsticks in hand, with my eyes glued to the screen. The main character, Lux, had just been confronted by her dad, Nicky, who was pissed off after finding out the huge secret she’d been hiding for months. Right then, after receiving, what he considers, devastating news, he turned to her boyfriend, Dre, who he despises, and the look on his face said — something’s about to pop off! With all this drama happening so fast, I needed a moment to prepare myself for what was coming next; so I paused the video and took my eyes off the screen for a second. One second. And that’s all it took to ruin my appetite.
Over by the bar, was Salim, casually placing an order like he wasn’t impeding on my plans. There were hundreds of restaurants in this city — 346, to be exact; according to my pre-move research — and he just had to choose this one on the one day I could actually afford to eat here? Guess I’m all tapped out on the good luck today. Before I could find something to be fake-distracted with, he spun around, and in his search for an empty table, locked eyes with mine, for a second. Just a second. But that was long enough for him to make the decision to walk over.
With the way things went in the elevator that day, I couldn’t see why he would even want to talk to me, unless… he didn’t want to talk at all. What if he was coming to pick up where we left off? To remind me of how wrong I was for making assumptions and then using those assumptions as the basis for accusations that weren’t even true? What if he goes off in front of all of these people and we get thrown out for disorderly conduct? How will I finish my food? Will they at least let me pack a few to-go plates first?
I wanted to break away from the table, find a hiding spot in the bathroom, and stay there until he realized that public humiliation wasn’t really necessary, especially for some week old drama, but his feet moved way quicker than the escape plan generator in my head, and I… didn’t know what to do besides… sit there.
“I take it you haven’t eaten in a few…” he looked over my assortment of dishes, “weeks?”
A joke? So, he’s not mad? Thank God.
My shoulders relaxed and my tightly folded arms fell into my lap. “I had a really good day so I’m celebrating.”
“Oh?” his eyebrow raised an entire inch as he slid into the empty seat across from me, “What are we celebrating?”
“We aren’t celebrating anything,” I said, “You don’t have time for crazy, remember?”
That was kind of a low-blow, I know, but what can I say? His sense of humor is infectious.
“I did say that,” he laughed at my witty comeback, “but it’s only because you said we don’t have a spot.”
“That’s because we don’t.”
He paused, a smile appearing across his lips, as if he had taken my response as some kind of challenge. “That’s not the way I see it.”
Was that a flir—
Before I could break down whatever he may have been insinuating with that comment, the waitress, who must’ve thought we were together, returned, this time with his food. She rearranged the table again, to make room for his much simpler meal, and just like last time, whisked away without so much as one curious look about what was said before she arrived.
Speaking of which—
“I’m… sorry,” he changed the subject before I could get to it, “for what I said in the elevator the other day. I was having a really, really bad day and I took it out on you. You didn’t deserve that.”
Those words flowed effortlessly from his mouth like they had been rehearsed, thought over, reconsidered, and even changed a few times. His expression matched the regret in his tone and as he sat there awaiting my acceptance of his beautiful apology, I found myself drowning in his sincerity, which was something… I wasn’t used to… Not from men…
“Really, really bad days are sort of my specialty,” I passed him the sriracha, “so, how about we eat and forget about bad days, okay?”
Under the guise of my excellent advice, we moved on from the topics of arguments and bad moods to the stuff that really matters, like books, food, and TV shows. We debated the irrationality of his hatred for strawberries, the fact that Hot Cheetos are going extinct, the controversial ending of the Crisis Barn book series — and every. single. time, we ended up on opposite ends of the argument. So as our conversation moved into the subject of Graylight, which he happened to be well-versed in too, this trend continued.
“So you don’t think Nicky and Lux’ll make up?” he asked, again.
“Of course I do!” I pinched the space between my eyebrows as I explained for what felt like the tenth time, “I’m just saying that the way things went down was his fault, so he should be the one apologizing.”
He leaned into the table, just as exasperated as I was. “But you’re not saying how it’s his fault though.”
“Okay, well, for one,” I held up a finger, “he’s way too overbearing. Two,” I held up another, “I get the surprise about the pregnancy, but he’s overreacting big time.”
He sucked his teeth, throwing his body back into his chair; a clear indicator of his differing opinion.
“And let me guess,” I rolled my eyes, “You don’t agree?”
“Nah, see, look at it this way,” he attempted to change my mind, again, “When Lux and Dre were teens, they did a lot of lying, a lot of sneaking around, right?”
“And it was so bad that she snuck off to a whole different city to spend the weekend with him when her parents thought she was at her friend’s house, right?”
“That was years ago though.”
“True,” he agreed with me, for once, “But from a parent’s perspective, I can see why Nicky feels like she’ll always be making mistakes as long as Dre’s around — and I like Dre, so don’t come for me.”
Okay, he may have made a few points — a few — but he would never hear that from me.
“So, I guess you gained this perspective from all the kids you’ve raised, right?”
“Nah, this all me,” he chuckled, “I’m not even thinking about kids right now.”
“Finally, something we agree on.”
Curious about the “show”, Graylight? Check out the story’s homepage.
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