If you walked in and sat on one of those odd-looking chairs, you'd be forced to wait. But that's not the part you hate most. A waitress will have passed by your table three times to ask you what you'd like to have. And you will have asked only for a bottle of wine, one of the cheapest she can find. That's what you hate most, they find out you are not much to look out for.
You cannot tell the waitress that cheap wines taste much better when you are scared to cut part of your school money to please your tongue. That might sound too awkward. You might tell her you are waiting for a friend and turn away with a nod of your head.
But you know she will look at you and at the fourth passing, stop at your table and flutter her eyelids. That is when you will have to tell her part of your story. You will have to roll your eyes so you don't look too keen to disperse information. But don't roll your eyes too often or she will think you are lying and indifferent and then you will have to leave the restaurant.
If you walked past the restaurant, you'd be forced to look in, to try and find her face in the dim lights. You will want to wait by the door, to peer in and to find out if she could make it. A waitress will meet you there and smile at you and ask you what you want. She might offer a table. But that's not the part you hate most. It's when you will look at the waitress and not know why you are here. You might order a bottle of champagne and gasp at the bill as the night wears on. And in the morning, there will be letters with brown and yellow seals, telling you about the mortgage and loans.
At least that's better than smiling back at the waitress and telling her nothing before stepping out into the rain and musk. Tell yourself this but don't do it often lest you get used to the taste of wine and evening sickness.
Now, if you stand opposite the restaurant in that small shack, you will feel the need to join in the fight by the corner of the street but you will also feel the desire to stroll into the restaurant to see if she came or not. That's just it. But that's not what you hate most. It's the stain on your white sleeve when you join in the fight and then listening as the waitress points out the bloodstain on it.
And you don't want to be the first one of many who will face the dilemma of restaurant entries. But there's nothing else to do so you stand opposite the restaurant and you get drawn into the fistfights. One of the men - the one who looks like a soft smelling flower- plants his fist into a second man. Blood splashes like a running faucet and you step in because you want to arrive at the restaurant a little late. You want her hands to come to yours and her lips on yours. You want that so much that you step in the middle of the fight and drive your fist into Mr. Flower. It cuts his lips.
The night is too dark so he doesn't see your face and they don't know why you care so much. They don't even notice when you slip out and walk into the restaurant.
A waitress meets you there, by the door. As she talks, you check your time. Perfect. You are late. Again. The waitress offers a table but you've seen her already. So you decline the offer and walk towards her. She looks at you. She stands up from her seat and hugs you.
"I'm sorry I'm late. The rain kept me for a while."
You sit apart. You pretend your excuse makes more sense than the story you will offer her when she asks you about the bloodstains on your shirt. She doesn't, though and it makes no sense to you.
The waitress smiles at her, waves at you and you want to leave. You don't know why she would want to eat here, of all places. You've asked her before. She just likes it here, she told you then. If you ask her now, she won't answer. So don't.
You order steaks. You don't eat it. She drinks her wine silently and it kills you how the silence has stretched so thin since you walked in. You miss her, miss her eyes, and her lips but don't look at her too closely or she will think you are a pervert.
"How was your trip, Willows?" Your first question startles her, you can tell.
She shrugs. She says, "It was good. You were late again. It stopped raining two hours ago."
You want to tell her you don't like the restaurant and the food and the way the waitress looks at you like she knew you had hoped, once, to become president of America. But you don't tell her this. She might look away and tell you you are a disgrace.
Don't give the waitress a fourth glance, she will think you are a stalker.
"I'm sorry, Willows. I was going to call you." But there is nothing you can say that will erase the frown from her face. You are late and that's it. You don't look her eyes, you don't want her to think you don't care. You look her eyes later, you don't want her to think you are lying.
"How is your job as a writer? Was that even a job, don't mind me asking."
You don't know what to tell her. You keep quiet but not for more than five seconds or she will think you are a failure. You say, "Oh, well it's been good. It's a job. I write articles for SunSet, you've seen some of my works before."
"It was crap back then."
You don't want to smile. You hate that she still makes you feel inferior, fake. And you don't want her to question why she ever married you and got pregnant and loved you enough to keep the baby. Babies, as she corrected four months later.
"It wasn't crap. Although now it's better."
She nods her head.
"I am working on a book now. It's about Ted. Do you know him? The guy with a weird beard that sleeps over at the abandoned building. I've been spending time with him. I want to write about him."
"I did not invite you over to talk about a homeless man."
You say okay.
"You've been failing to send money for the children and I. It's been months. I can't keep doing that, you know."
"I am working on that."
"Four months? Jesus."
You know it's been five months. Don't correct her or she will add a month to it and threaten you with legal action. Just beg, that's your rule to being happy. Beg.
"Please, Willows. I will work on it and send the money."
She says nothing.
"How're the girls? I miss them."
"You wouldn't if you sent the money, called or came to visit."
If you tell her you've been going bad financially, she will laugh and tell you how she'd always warned you about your stupid job at SunSet. Don't tell her that. She would not have allowed you to visit. That's your excuse.
"I'm really sorry." You say to her.
She eats your steak and pulls out money from her purse. She probably knows you can't pay. Maybe that's why you hate the restaurant the most: because it's too expensive for your pocket.
The waitress walks over, smiles at you, and waves at her. You don't smile back.
"I really need to leave. If you don't call me in the morning I'll talk to the court."
She leaves the restaurant. You sit there, alone. You don't know if coming late again served a purpose but if the feeling in your heart is anything to go by, you will want to come late every time she calls you to this restaurant. When you leave, you know nothing except that you hate the food and cheap wine tastes bad.
And you forget to call her in the morning.