After collecting himself almost imperceptibly, without so much as a shiver, Anything Man turned to Liver Lady. He said, “Please sit down. Thanks for joining me.”
“Why thank you,” Liver Lady said. “Thank you very much.”
“What are you drinking,” he asked.
“Diet Doctor Pepper,” she said. “I don’t want anyone taking advantage of me later,” and winked. And giggled.
“Ha ha,” he obliged, and I thought I would weep. For the rest of the evening they chatted, pleasantly, about who knows what. I was so mortified I couldn’t make eye contact with Anything Man, even to listen, even to apologize. I just pretended to have my shift drink at the bar and chat with Greg, stealing glances at them when I could.
Eventually, The Model had picked at her food enough for it to seem like she’d eaten; she paid and left. The chairs were up on the tables, and the lights had been slowly brightened so that Jose could see the floor for mopping. It was time to go home. Kimberly was annoyed that I had hung around so long, reminding me that I wasn’t making tips for the last two hours since I’d agreed she could close up alone, even though I did help her with the salt-shakers.
But I couldn’t leave. Liver Lady and Anything Man stayed on late into the night, talking and moving around their empty drink glasses, pleasantly like old friends, or a new couple just grown into their own comfort together. Like they’d known each other forever.
The restaurant would shutter within a month because of unpaid bills; first the liquor deliveries would stop, and then the fresh fish, and then Sal, the restaurant’s silent partner who always wore a velour tracksuit and Dolce and Gabbana shades, would start lurking at table seven waiting for Philip the owner, who had disappeared.
I never found out what it was or what happened to either Liver Lady or Anything Man, because neither of them ever came back.
But on this night, I want you to picture it: she is wholly unaware of anything around her now, though he will stare out into the quiet street periodically, an inscrutable combination of looks crossing his face. Maybe he is thinking of The Model, long gone, or of me, or of another person, place or thing – the noun inside his heart that no one else could know. Whatever it is, is inflected with the deep sadness that’s caught in the gracious smile of a suitor who’s finally found his perfect match, and who wishes for a moment he could be someone else, somewhere else, some other time. – (c) 2010, all rights reserved.