It had been a long exhausting day. As the ‘dean of discipline’ (which some teachers called me) I got all the rebellious students in our large high school to straighten out. I had about fifteen kids sent to me today- nine for starting a food fight in the lunchroom, two for making out in the hallway, one for bringing a pocket knife to school, and three more for trying to start a protest about the upcoming SAT’s. I was pretty tired by time school let out that afternoon, but I’ve gotten used to it. One of the teachers that day said to me…
Man Albert. You look like you had a rough day.
Yeah I did.
Maybe you should just have a bit of fun, it’s Friday after all. My friends and I are going to the movies tonight if you want to come with us.
Nah, that’s okay.
See, I’m not really that social- which is surprising since I have to deal with eighteen year old boys who vandalize with graffiti. Most people just stop asking me by now to go places with them.
When I got back to my small apartment, I decided what I wanted to make for dinner. I looked through my pantry, but it was picked clean! I guess I got really hungry this week and forgot to buy groceries. There was one box of dry pancake mix left, and I thought I could just have breakfast for dinner. I got out some bowls and all the ingredients needed, and started working. The batter was almost ready and I only needed one more ingredient, an egg. I looked through my fridge only to find… I was out. Dang it. I was literally getting ready to pour the batter onto the skillet, only to find I couldn't because I didn’t have an egg. I almost threw the whole thing away, but remembered I had a lot of old ladies for neighbors. Old ladies are almost always cooking (at least that’s what I assumed) and thought they might have an extra egg I could borrow. So I slipped on my shoes and walked across the hallway to one of my neighbors, Mrs. Bartelle.
I had actually only met Mrs. Bartelle once, and that was because I brought her some leftover cookies and she invited me inside. We chatted for a bit, and I could tell she liked me because I was young and innocent and she was old and wise. Her husband was on a long work trip that lasted a few months, so she was basically alone in her small apartment. I felt kind of bad for her, so that was the only reason I stayed. But we really hadn’t talked since.
“Why Albert darling! It’s so nice to see you again.” she said with a wide smile.
“Yes, it’s nice to see you too. I was just wondering if you had an extra egg I could borrow for my dinner.”
“Oh you aren’t making pancakes for dinner because you ran out of groceries, now are you?”
I didn’t really know how to reply to that.
“Honey I’m just messing with you. Of course you can have an egg.”
“Oh thank you.” I gave a small sigh of relief.
She paused before turning around,
“Although... I’m actually going out for dinner tonight and would love to have someone to attend with me. I’m sure you’ve already started your meal, but I’m going to a pizza place downtown and you could always put your batter in the fridge.”
I was a bit annoyed she knew I was making pancakes, and was kind of unsure about going out.
I wasn’t really planning on doing anything tonight though, and did want pizza so I gave in.
“Alright, that would be nice.” I replied.
I quickly cleaned up my kitchen and put the batter in the fridge. Mrs. Bartelle and I took the trolley downtown, and got off at Pierre's Pizza Parlor. As we stepped inside, we saw the place was packed. Being a Friday night, I could understand. I asked the waitress for a table for two, and she brought us to the only table left, which was meant to sit six people. I was a bit surprised that they would seat us with so much room, but I wasn’t complaining. We looked at our menus and each ordered a small pizza. As we waited, we had a little bit of small talk, but all about the normal stuff.
How’s your job going?
When’s your husband coming home?
A couple of weeks.
And basically a bunch of stuff like that. Just when I was starting to get bored, I finally figured out why we were at such a big table. Since the Pizza Parlor was so packed, they were going to fit people wherever they could. Even if it meant at other peoples tables.
I saw our waitress coming with a woman, and sat her at the end of our table. The woman now sitting with us, had big glasses and curly red hair. She was wearing a neon green sweater and hot pink shoes. No offense to her or anything, but she looked like she worked at a roller skating rink. Mrs. Bartelle didn’t care though. As soon as the lady sat down, she invited her to sit closer. After a bit of persuading, she got the woman to sit in the chair next to her. We found out the woman’s name was Cindy, and she worked as an pottery instructor in town. She was pretty nice, but I let Mrs. Bartelle do most of the talking. Cindy said she lived alone, and wanted to go out to eat tonight, so came here. We learned lots of random things about her, like how she had a pet chihuahua, and a snake. She once had a part time job as a zoo keeper, and had read about two hundred books in her lifetime. (so far)
Right about this time, our waiter brought another person to our table and apologized for the inconvenience. Mrs. Bartelle encouraged him to leave the end of the table though, and sit next to me. This man was around my age, and was in a black suit carrying a briefcase. I could tell this guy wasn’t too happy about the seating arrangements. He said he was supposed to be at a work meeting, but it got canceled and needed somewhere to eat for dinner, so he ended up here. He worked for a large bank and just by his dress apparel, I could tell he was pretty high up in the job rankings. His name was Nathan, and we could tell he didn’t want to talk much, so just let him be.
After what felt like forever, our food finally came. Cindy was vegan, so had a salad while the rest of us ate our pizza. When the waitress brought two other guests to our table, we were pretty used to it by now so just welcomed them in. This was a young husband and wife still in their twenties, and they said that they were celebrating their second wedding anniversary tonight. Mrs. Bartelle was thrilled, and bought them each a glass of champagne. We had finally filled up all six seats at our big table, and were chatting away like we had known each other for years. I especially liked talking to the young husband Sam, and we spoke about teaching because he was graduating with his education degree this year. Nathan opened up a bit, and joined in after a while. Mrs. Bartelle talked with Cindy and the young wife Linda, and they chatted about marriage, kids and all that jazz. I had actually never felt that welcome before. Living alone was hard, and being here with all these people made me feel like I was having… well fun!
After we ate and finished talking, we went our separate ways. Mrs. Bartelle and I headed home. I was glad I had went to dinner with her, and sat at that six person table. I was glad I had met Cindy, Nathan, Sam, and Linda, and got to know them better. I was glad Mrs. Bartelle was my neighbor and got me to branch out. As I dropped her off, I told her how thankful I was for her inviting me, and letting me have a good evening. I explained that my day didn’t go so well at school, but now it had completely turned around making me feel better than ever.
“Oh Albert.” She looked at me with her kind eyes, “You are a kind, good, man... who just needs to have a bit of fun.” she winked at me, and then went inside.
Since then, I’ve stayed in touch with Mrs. Bartelle and her husband. She’s taught me how to cook better than pancakes, and her husband and I have been trying to beat each other at card games. I feel like they’re my second grandparents who live down the hall. They’re always there for me when I need them. One thing we do together, is every second Friday of the month, we’ll all go down to Pierre's Pizza Parlor to spend time together. And sometimes, if we’re lucky- we’ll get a table for six.