A Night Out

A final café memory: The place is Portland. The time is last year. The story is true.

She entered the bistro alone. After being seated, she asked that the second set of utensils be moved closer to her seat. That seemed odd. Who knows what she had in mind?

She was attractive, not young, but slim and stylish with a low slung gown and a good tan. It was still late winter, so it was clear she had made the rounds. She looked smart, maybe an attorney, perhaps a book editor. Women dining alone draw my attention, probably most everyone’s too. She read the menu, glanced down occasionally to insure her gown was properly placed. I began to sense what she was up to.

Eventually he arrived and she introduced him to the host. He was also well put together, about the same age, nicely but simply dressed with coat and tie. I thought he might be Italian or maybe French, looked a little like Yves Montand. Pulling back the chair, he began to seat himself on the opposite side of the table. She motioned him over her way. He obliged and they embraced as he sat down beside her.

I doubt either of them were married. They chatted, reviewed the menu, then ordered a drink. They talked, she kissed him once or twice, he smiled, although slightly hesitant in the crowded cafe. They ordered, she became more demonstrative, kissing him more often now.

She seemed happy to see him, to be with him, to be able to touch and embrace him at will. Their meal arrived. The kissing continued, became even longer. The pauses between them shorter and she became more animated. So did he. Still, he seemed reserved although clearly enjoying her affection.

I began to wonder is this really happening? Here in this fancy restaurant and this woman is all over this man. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised anymore by such displays. But still.

They drank a good deal of wine, ate generously from the menu, and by the time I was ready to leave, she looked rather undone, not at all like the smart, stylish woman she was when she arrived. They would have a lovely evening together. It would be greatly relished, mutually so, I imagined.

Yes, for a while I did enjoy her display of affection, did recognize its appeal. But after a while it became disconcerting, a bit oppressive. It was a rather sedate place after all. And I began to wonder what’s up with this couple, after all. Was he visiting town for the weekend? A long-past lover? Her man in Rome or Paris?

But it was time to go, time to also wonder what it would be like to the recipient of such devotion. Would it be welcomed? There? In this swanky café? I recalled a passage from Brian Morton’s Starting Out in the Evening, “Meeting up again with him like this, they had the best of both worlds: the comfort of an old love and the intensity of a new one.”