I order a glass of pinot noir and wait for Todd to arrive. It seems strange that he wants to have dinner together after our New Year’s Eve break-up.
“It’s not fun anymore,” he had said as we watched the Times Square ball drop on a friend’s television.
I had never been so grateful to live in the central time zone. At least my new year wouldn’t start with a break up. It would only end with one.
“I need some space.”
His last spoken words to me then and well, still now. He texted me last week.
“Hey, can you meet for dinner at Henry’s on Saturday night?”
“I want to talk to you about something important.”
The server asks me if I am waiting for someone and I tell him yes. He hands me a wood tablet with the “Lover’s Weekend” specials printed on parchment paper. I sit uncomfortably with the reminder that Valentine’s Day had been earlier in the week and the restaurant’s marketing team decided to spread out their love-theme decadence as long as they could. I wonder if they will still be on the menu in three days, on Fat Tuesday, when all the sinners want one more indulgence before the start of their self-imposed restrictions during Lent.
I question if Todd picked dinner here tonight for a reason. Part of me is hoping he did target today. Part of me hopes he hadn’t given it a second thought. Neither of these scenarios concern me as much as why he chose this restaurant with its Michelin star. When we were dating, he took me to chain restaurants where he could redeem frequent-eater rewards to pay for most of the bill.
I hug my wine glass and look around. Lots of couples basking in the aura that comes with the combination of fine dining and love or lust; it’s hard to tell the difference. Foursomes belly-laughing at what I am guessing are average jokes that sound more comedic after a couple of bottles of wine. I feel the eyes of a few of the foursomes staring at my empty chair silently hoping my companion’s tardiness becomes their next topic of conversation.
My nerves pulse at a manageable tempo since I do not know why I am here. Not knowing does jumble my thoughts, but knowing would consume me even more as I watch the joyous couples surrounding my table watch me with added interest.
“More wine lovey lady?” the sixty-something waiter asks.
I shake my head no and look at the remaining vino in my glass. Is the glass half empty or half filled? Or is the wine level counting time?
I have been waiting for nearly fifteen minutes pre-reservation time. In two minutes, he will be late. In three minutes, my glass will start counting in post-reservation metrics. I decide to check on Todd’s arrival status.
I am here. Where are you?
“I am here too. I don’t see you.”
In the middle of the room. By the column with the mirrors. Where everyone in the restaurant can see me.
“How much have you had to drink? Harry’s doesn’t have any columns.”
Harry’s? He’s at Harry’s Pub, a twenty-minute drive from Henry’s White Cloth.
Why are you at Harry’s?
“That’s where I asked you to meet me.”
No you didn’t. You said we were having dinner at Henry’s.
“Why would I do” I interrupt his comment with my scathing blip.
Check your text history!!!!!
The sounds in the restaurant grow louder as if each dish clang or laugh is attached to a microphone. I wait for his response. I sip more wine even though I want to down it. The foursomes must see the concerned look spread across my face because they watch me closer.
“Ah crap. Damn autocorrect. Lizzy I meant Harry’s not Henry’s.”
The fabric of my navy pantsuit starts to cling to my body. My pearl necklace starts to feel like a noose.
“How did you get a table?”
I said a table for Smith and a server graciously escorted me to my seat.
“It’s not my reservation.”
His texting stops. I try to digest that I have already invested way too much brain power in preparing for tonight’s rendezvous and I stole someone’s romantic evening.
My phone vibrates. He has more to say.
“I was meeting you at the pub to tell you in person Sabrina is pregnant with my child. Guess I will be marrying her after all.”
I try to process his typed words.
I realize that this would have been easier in person so I could squint my eyes in disgust or slap him. I could show him my visual barrage of emotions without having to say a word.
Instead, I need to type a reply. The perfect reply. Should it be searing, happy, or in some suspended space between the two? I guess even the greeting card writers would have difficulty finding words for an ex-boyfriend who inseminated his ex-girlfriend and told this to his most recent fling over text.
I could ask questions. Why did your phone autocorrect to Henry’s? Did you take her here? Were you sleeping with her when we were dating? When is she due?
One emotionally noncommittal word. Could be sincere. Could be sarcastic. Could be a word to fill space. Do I mean happiness for the couple or contempt at his revelation? I don’t know.
“Sorry about this. Stay for dinner and send me the bill. Pay you back, my treat.”
I drop my phone on the table striking the tines of the salad fork at angle that sends it airborne before multiplying to two folks when it strikes the reflection column. Now the couples watch too.
Before the tears start to pour, I reach for cash to pay my bill. My intentional search is interrupted.
“Excuse me, miss” the tuxedo-clad maître d' intervenes. “I believe there is an issue with your reservation.”
I want to tell him “no shit,” but instead I look up at him to seek a moment of repose before I exit.
“Miss you must leave.” A familiar face with a Luis Louis Vuitton satchel and her male partner beeline towards me. “Councilwoman Tonya Todd and her husband have a standing reservation with us.”
I manage to take a twenty out of my wallet and lay it on the table. Instinctively, I cradle my piece of Henry’s stemware in my shaking hands and take it with me as I release the table to its rightful occupants.
The weight of the couples’ and foursomes’ stares follow closely behind me as I walk towards the front door.
I should have ordered the second glass of wine.
I drink what’s left as the empty vessel escorts me out of the restaurant.