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Dinner For Misfits: Part 2
by C.J. Michaels
2007-02-03 10:32:01
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The tables are small and space is cramped, so it’s fortunate that my companions do not include the large women from the bar. One end is dominated by a younger version of Woody Allen sitting next to a Renée Zellweger look-alike, who is genuinely surprised to hear it. “But I usually get Helen Hunt,” she says and I make the faux pas of arguing. “But it’s always Helen Hunt,” she insists, from under slightly furrowed eyebrows.

Beside me, there’s Nichole, who’s talking to a startlingly beautiful woman on her right. She’s called something beginning with M, but I can’t see the rest of her name label without looking as if I’m checking out her tits, so I just have to go with M. Both women are black and I’m about to ask if they know each other, but I’m struck by a Seinfeld moment and keep quiet.

On my left there’s Suzanne, who has a name issue, despite what her nametag says. “Never Suzanne, always Suzy,” she says. She’s round and covered in the kind of orangey-pink cardigan no one of that shape should wear.

Opposite me is the apologizing man in the blood-red shirt. If I hadn’t already categorized him, I would now. His cell phone rings and I’m treated to one side of a conversation with his son about why the boy cannot have a pony for his birthday. Then he calls his ex-wife to argue the same question and, moments later, calls a friend who evidently has one for sale. He must be very important.

The final member tries to order a martini and I’m disturbed to hear him directed to the bar. The waitresses don’t take alcohol orders. They’ll get sodas and water, but they won’t deal with the ‘difficulty’ of drinks.

Martini Man’s problem is soon to be my own and, since I’m wedged firmly in the middle at the back and drowning in cushions, perhaps changing places would be a good idea. Across from Renée Zellweger would be perfect, but somehow I manage to get into conversation with M about nationalities instead of swapping positions and I learn that she’s from Uganda. Then food begins to arrive and I am stuck.

Other tables have more bread than ours and Red Shirt, who isn’t as wimpy as I first thought, is persuaded to steal some. Our single dipping plate of swirled oil and Balsamic vinegar is not enough, so I ask a passing waitress for more, but the request gets misconstrued. After a significant wait, a confused Mexican boy delivers a very full bowl of malt vinegar which sloshes over the side and stinks up the table, prompting conversation about vinegar and fish ‘n’ chips in England.

“Chips or Boardwalk Fries?” Suzy asks, confused, so I explain the difference in terminology over fries versus chips. But what does she mean by Boardwalk Fries? She says that it’s the American name for French Fries, with emphasis to show that the latter are foreign. I remember the young man who’d never heard of the Eiffel Tower. Maybe it’s a general anti-French thing.

Red Shirt sets himself up as unofficial host, moving food around and offering plates. Each time someone tries to serve themselves, he lifts the plate a few inches from the table surface. This makes it bow sharply downwards and it is not long before the tablecloth is covered with a layer of salad and mayonnaise. He’s in a constant state of flux, aiding the movement of food from one end of the table to the other, particularly at the behest of Suzy, who is vegetarian and won’t have anything containing meat near her. He’s Jewish, he explains, so he understands. I can’t see a connection at all, but it’s not a subject I want to get into and I have to frequently ask for the return of plates that touched down briefly at our end, only to be instantly re-directed out of my reach.

Conversation changes quickly during dinner and I realize that, whilst I’ve been categorizing my tablemates, Woody Allen has been chatting up Renée Zellweger. This is what I intended for myself, but chances of that are quickly going downhill – if not already at the bottom. Talking about Hollywood and maybe Helen Hunt might get her interested, but then they exchange numbers and that’s that.

For the dessert course, we swap tables. M moves too and I find myself at table four with her, opposite the Eiffel Tower youngster. The only other member is a blonde who might be cute if she lost about thirty pounds but, by the way she’s tucking into the dessert, that doesn’t seem likely. I try a few polite thrusts at conversation, but her answers are all, “Oh, I don’t know,” said in differing tones. If the words are to be believed, she doesn’t know where she lives, where she works, where she socializes, or whether she’s having a good time, so I don’t expend much effort.

By now, the wine has gone to my head and I’m feeling devilish, so it’s impossible to not goad Eiffel a little by including him in a conversation with M. I’m surprised to learn that he knows roughly where Uganda is but then he loses all credibility by referring to their population as African Americans. It’s a color thing. He asks, somewhat rashly, about African Americans in England and I give him the Renée Zellweger/Helen Hunt furrowed brow look. He cannot understand that neither British people nor Africans would call themselves American, regardless of the color of their skin. M is as unimpressed as me, so we ignore him and switch to talking about grown up things.

I excuse myself for the rest room and, when I return, everyone’s left. I was only gone for a short time and there were enough desserts to feed an army, but all six tables are empty. What happened? Did aliens abduct them? Were they waiting for me to turn my back? A suspicious man might feel paranoid but, fortunately even four glasses of cabernet isn’t enough to prompt that level of paranoia.

And so it ends. I pay my bar tab and walk out into the unusually spring-like January night, mentally comparing this evening to last time. No dancing, no numbers and I’ll wake up alone.

I wonder what the next one will bring. . .


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Frank2007-02-03 21:01:41
great read! Hope the food was good :P

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