jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


Dinner is at eight, and I am early, so here I am at the bar of a trendy swank restaurant. It’s nice to sit here and write, not worry about all the horse hockey going on around me. Next door is a terrifically awkward first date. On Valentine’s Day, no less, and she is already giving all the signs of a thumbs down, her seat is moved as far away from his as possible and still be in the same zip code. Her purse occupies another chair, she wants to take up as much space as possible and keep everyone away.

There are bowls of candy hearts set out, and when my friend shows up we grab them and shake them like magic eight balls. We each draw out a heart, to read it like a prophesy. Hers is unintelligible, which seems like not a good thing, since it is her birthday. Mine says “angel” which seems perfectly funny.

We are marooned at the bar. The reservation desk has forgotten we are here, despite us consistently reminding them, and when we are finally seated it is an hour past. We are so giddy and relieved to be actually sitting in chairs, with actual menus and the promise of food, that we decide to draw on the paper covering the table. I give her a pen, and, like the plate is a head, she draws a crown on top of it, a crown with winking jewels, fitting, as this is her day. She hands me the pen, and at the top of my plate I draw a jester’s hat with jingle bells. I hand the pen to her, and she starts to make an elaborate monogram alongside her forks. I am anticipating my turn when the antipasti comes.

There was more food than we could possibly eat. There was a man there just for cheese, and you have to know how much I enjoyed that, never mind the way he set his handsome face as he kneaded the mozzarella so intensely, and it was so good and covered in crisps of ham. I lost track of how many dishes we tried to work our way through: wild mushroom crepes with crème fraiche; orichiette with fennel sausage; gnocchi; risotto; charcuterie with toasted garlic bread; and meats so succulent that we could barely do more than roll our eyes and breathe them in.

We are full and we are tiring and we roll into a sleeted salt spattered cab. When she gets out at her apartment, the driver turns and says "Happy birthday! You are beautiful!" and that is how it should be, because everyone should be beautiful on their birthday.


Blogger eastwesterner said...

"Mine says 'angel' which seems perfectly funny."

Perfectly funny or just perfect?

8:16 AM  
Blogger Pan said...

Ha ha - I LOVE sitting next to 'awkward first date' in restaurants. Entertainment money can't buy!

Did you ever go to Alison on Dominick street? I think it closed down a while back but you could virtually guarantee uncomfortable date entertainment. Occassionally your own ;-)

12:39 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

EastWest, you know I'm no angel! But that urge just seems to keep following me around.

Pan, I cannot even begin to tell you how awful it was! Yikes! I was really glad to not be on a date. What a friggin relief.

6:39 PM  

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