Feb 14, 2010

It's a troubled and weepy Valentine's Day at Puccini's. And during the height of the brunch hour there are no more croissants.

At a table a few feet away a young couple is hard at it. Black and white. In their early 20s. He's talking a blue streak. They could be from the Art Institute. She's wearing boots and a sweater dress. There's a portfolio at her feet. She's got great brown doe eyes, and once I glance over and they're filling with tears. It's not a breakup, she's revealing something. Her chin sinking deep in the palm of her hand. She does not look up. I am guessing she's Italian. I can hear the word, "family." A scandal of some kind, perhaps. He catches her hand, her head drops, he kisses her forehead. He's very tender. Yet they are probably not lovers. Not yet. There's something still missing, but maybe not now. After a few minutes, they desert their plates, stand up, put down some money and leave.

The restaurant is clearing out. The tea and the latte are excellent; the omelettes, not very good. The check is coming. I ask the proprietress what is this opera playing overhead. It's Manon Lescaut, she says, sung by the Maori sensation, Kiri Te Kanawa, with Placido Domingo. 1984. This is the part when Manon is out in the Louisiana "desert". Des Grieux has gone for water. Manon is recounting her life. Shortly, she will die in the arms of her beloved.

The proprietress moves away, and the man at the next table is revealed. Glistening bald head, mid fifties, black suit, no tie. A powerful rock face. Sensual lips. But lazy, sliding eyes. The woman to his left is in green. We noticed her come in earlier. So this is a rendevous, they didn't come in together. She's wearing large dark glasses. I can't see her face. She never utters a word. She is a large woman, a little fleshy, but not heavy. Large and he is large. Two large people. He's leaning forward, on his elbows, hands clasped. As though he were a lawyer or he's giving a lecture for the TED institute.

"You're a genius," he's saying to her. "No you really are. You are. There's no question and charming and no one can be more welcoming. But at the same time you know what you are. You are the coldest woman I have ever met. I don't know what it is. What is it? I don't think it was something I've done. I think you were always this way, but people don't see it. You project such warmth, but it really isn't there. It's just not."

At that moment he looks at me. I'm unabashedly watching him. I hold his stare. And then, without missing a beat, he looks back to her, the lawyer at the deposition trying to end the case right here and now.

"Isn't that true," he says, beating her with the words. "Isn't it."


Anjuli said...

how do you do it? you had me transported to the restaurant- listening in on the conversation...then it abruptly stopped and I was still here in East Legon.

Anonymous said...

I like your play on words, how the young couple "dessert" their plates. Very clever. A lovely piece.