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Friday, February 15, 2008

More to the Story than Meets the Eye

Andy and I make our way to Giorgio’s, a local restaurant in town. For Valentine’s Day Giorgio’s is featuring a special Valentine menu. No other offering is available except selections from this menu. Reservations are required. No walk-ins will be seated this night.

When we arrive the place is packed. Our seven o’clock reservation is pushed back a bit, so we sit at the bar with drinks in hand. Valentine’s Day is special to us, as we became engaged on this day. At first, we have eyes only for each other as we reminisce about that day so long ago. It’s always the same, retold as if scripted. With each year, one or both of us add to the tale, and relate something never shared before in the way only a thirty year relationship would be comfortable doing. We chuckle at the observation or admit to having knowledge of this or that.

The conversation unfolds into wondering about the couples here tonight. We look around the room at each table. The generations are equitably represented, from young to middle-aged to aging. We speculate on each of their stories as we observe the body language of man and woman. Yes, our first observation is that they are all man and woman couples. I am oddly unsettled by this fact. I’m sure same sex couples enjoy fine dinning just as much as the next person. We speculate that there is some event we are unaware of, and move on with our people watching.

At a corner table is a middle aged gentleman with a woman who appears much younger than he. They proceed at a measured pace with each course. Her left hand is resting on the table, and his right hand covers hers. It remains there through the entire meal. We decide they are still in the infatuation phase of their relationship. I’m happy for the thirty years that let’s me break my bread with both hands and wonder if they have skipped the bread. I can tell my priorities are not theirs.

There is an older couple sitting to my far left. She is wearing thick dark rimmed glasses, and a tan suede jacket. This is the short waisted type, where the fuzzy insides are showing at the stitched seams. It appears to be more of a man’s jacket than a woman’s jacket. She never removes it the entire evening although the temperature here is comfortable. The man sitting across from her has a part in his hair that starts just above the right ear. He looks bored. Or is that tolerant? She turns to look for the waiter, and her features are pinched with a furrowed brow above the dark rimmed glasses. I don’t think they are having fun yet.

Near us is a young couple. They don’t appear to be married, but are comfortable with each other. The woman is blond and has her hair pulled back in a ponytail. She is wearing beat-up jeans, which to me, is inappropriate for a special night out. Her legs are crossed in tomboy fashion, with the ankle on the knee. Andy spots this first. He mentions it several times. I can see that watching her sit this way in the restaurant seems improper to him. The young man is dark haired, and he has it slicked back with something that keeps his hair looking damp. He is serious the entire evening. We speculate that he is trying to avoid saying anything that is upsetting. The young woman does most of the talking, but she is more interested in the food than the attentive young man.

Against the wall is an anorexic looking woman with long auburn hair. She has it bubbled up in front on the top of her head, probably to give the illusion of height, with the rest trailing to her shoulders It’s a dated hairdo for sure. The skin on her face is sallow, and every bone is prominent. I recently watched a news story about twin anorexic sisters, and this woman’s face has that same look. Being frugal as I am, I can’t help but think this guy is throwing away fifty-five bucks, the cost per-person tonight. The woman is animated and never stops talking. All the while, she seldom looks his way; instead the eyes are rolling this way and that all around the room. Is she worried she will be spotted? The man looks like Gaston from the 1991 Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. Somehow this leaves me feeling he is as arrogant. I know! Stereotyping is a terrible thing.

Andy is kicking me under the table. He tells me to look over my shoulder. I turn, and behind me is a young couple. The woman has her back to me. All I see is a long bridal veil trailing down from her head to within inches of the floor. She is not wearing a gown, but something similar to a Thai silk jacket and trousers. The trousers, are ivory colored and I can’t see much of the jacket. Both appear to be ill fitting, loose and baggy so that there is no hint of shape or form beneath.

The groom is wearing a dark suit. His shirt is ruffled, but there is no tie of any kind at the neck. Although the collar is buttoned to the top, it bends this way and that away from his neck and is obviously a size or two larger than he needs. They appear a perfect match in respect to ill fitting clothing. He looks like a deer in headlights. This thought no sooner pops into my head, when Andy says “that guy is saying to himself, ‘what the hell have I done!’” I chuckle, because it certainly fits the expression.

Andy is facing their direction so has a better view than I do. Suddenly he says “uh oh, she just spilled something on herself”, to which I turn again. All I catch is the veil fluttering behind her as she races off to the ladies room to dab at the stain. The groom has plenty of time to bolt, but he does not, although the knee is bobbing up and down while he waits. Noticing that he doesn’t bold is a good sign. He waits patiently. She returns. Despite the nature of their dress, how odd their behavior seems, I can’t help but feel there is something special happening here. The waiter approaches, they have a few words. They shake hands all around in congratulations. The groom's expression has softened. He smiles at his bride. As we take our leave of the restaurant, I can’t help but imagine how this story will be retold and embellished in the next thirty years.

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