Well, last night I decided to treat myself to a quiet dinner at the Tex-Mex place near our apartment. El Nopalito, Spanish for "The Little Cactus," serves great food with an emphasis on fish. It was a perfect evening to eat outside - not too warm, not too windy, no bugs. So I asked to be seated on the patio and as they escorted me out, a cry rose up from the next table.
"Oh ho!" shouted a middle-aged man. "Someone is joining us! Joining us out on the patio!"
"Joining us on the patio!" echoed the middle-aged woman and young woman seated with him. They all raised their sangria classes and took a healthy swig.
"Are you eating all alone? No no no, that won't do!" He shook his head, huge hangdog jowls flapping everywhere. I wondered how long they had been out here pickling their brains.
"Won't do!" the chorus sang.
"Pull up a chair! Pull up a table!" The waitress wordlessly grabbed my table and began dragging it toward the leering revelers.
I smacked my palms down on my quickly receding tabletop. "Oh, no! That's okay," I called. "Just me and my book tonight!" I waved the novel I was reading to prove that I already had entertainment lined up.
"No," the man growled disapprovingly into his jowls. "That is just the most tragic thing I've ever seen!" And then they all broke into laughter.
Well, I didn't join them, but I did feel a sort of silent bond. I opened my book and settled in for a session of blatant eavesdropping. They were a family, apparently: father, mother, young adult daughter. They were world travelers with a yen for western Europe: Paris, Barcelona, London. The daughter appeared to have a deep unrequited love for George Clooney, the "Cary Grant of our generation." As if!
Now I don't know how it happened. Somewhere along the way, I laughed a little too openly at something they said, or Papa Bear made an expansive gesture to include all of us in his declarations, but somehow we started talking. When the waitress came back out, Papa gave her their pitcher of sangria and asked her to pour a glass for me. "Come on, pull up your chair! What did you say your name was? Melissa?"
Anyway, I ended up talking and laughing with them until about 9:30, with Papa Bear liberally topping off everyone's glasses. Turns out P-Bear was traveling to Springfield, IL for a ten day business trip and he was treating everyone to "his last real meal" until he could return from the hinterlands.
Whatever, I didn't care! They were just some very jolly folks and I felt blessed - by whom, I don't know. Dionysius? - but I felt blessed to just chill with them for a little while and let the cares of the world slip away.