Mango just died and I’m here at Yard House in Merrick Park, having a beer before a movie, when a woman in professional clothes with her hair in a bun sits down beside me, she’s got a gaunt nervous look to her, and she flags down a server to say she wants a chopped salad–and then she holds up an urgent, ceasing, almost provocative palm–and she says she wants salmon, not chicken, and she wants no bacon.
“Please, OK? No bacon.” She’s got an agitated tone like people follow her around with bacon.
The server reads the order back word for word.
The woman listens attentively and nods. Then asks for a cup of hot water with lemon. Leans down to breathe in the steam. Starts massaging her cheekbones with her thumbs. She looks amazingly tired and energized.
As people will sometimes do, she throws some glances at m, at my notebook, and after a while she leans over with a big white smile and says, “Sorry, that just looks super cool, what are you writing?”
I look up and I’ve obviously been crying and I tell her it’s a journal (I’ve never given this answer but I guess it’s true) and she gives me a staccato “oh, oh” and holds up a palm, apologetic, and says she doesn’t wanna interrupt. She looks up toward the TV over the bar. Shrugs in a passive aggressive way. “Just thought it was interesting. I won’t bother you.”
She gets her salad and eats it in big, meticulous, slow-chewing and savory bites. When she’s done and the server comes to collect her bowl she gives a big smile and says, “That was actually very good.” Says it in the manner of a person who prides themselves on the fact that they seldom give praise. The teacher who says no student gets an A in her class because there’s no such thing as perfection.
She seems like a person who would normally interrupt and demand conversation. But now she’s just eating quietly, leaving me to my work. My teary cheeks.
A parting gift from Mango.