Bistro Watching

The tomatoes sit on the saute station; shiny, red, ripe – the green stems holding them together like a trail of school children holding hands while crossing the street. The smell emulating from the fourno oven is that of pine nuts roasting; pungent and woody. As I sit at the bar, watching the chefs in a somewhat calm disorder garnishing, tossing, grilling; I bite into my warm, sweet, walnut-stuffed fig after carefully slicing through the crisp, salty prusciutto enveloping it.

The girls next to me emit a high shriek worthy of having stumbled upon a graveyard of spiders, or perhaps finding a pair of Louboutins on sale. Certainly not a shriek worthy of the mere mention of her friend Dave. She tosses her hair and smiles broadly. Her friend speaks to her in a low voice. The gales of laughter that follow are a testament to the easygoing triviality of the conversation.

I catch the waitress’ eye and she gives me a knowing half smile. These girls are here all the time, the high heels and skirt suits at odds with their girlish demeanors. The hairstyles may change; the shoes, the facial expressions, the outfits will change but the girls will remain the same in essence. I am these girls. We all are.

The men across the bar sip their wine, swirling it pompously in their goblets, watching as the legs trail down the interior of the glass to the burgundy pool below. They discuss the merits of “liquid lunches”, which are especially rampant during Stampede week. They argue about the possibility of rain. The one with the glasses being of the point of view that rain is inevitable; the grey-haired, slightly heavy man believing the sky will remain cloudless; the sun continuing to emanate rays all afternoon. The one with the glasses is the one who will end up being right.

A family sits behind me, the son wearing an expression of resentment and boredom. His mother scolds him, telling him to take his earphones out while they are eating dinner together, as a family. I smile, remembering our family dinners all too well. I once cried because we went to the same restaurant and they sat us at the same table and I was sure we were going to order the same thing we had last time. There were six of us, my parents and their four daughters, so table choices were limited. Even back then, at five years old, I needed change – thrived on it.

After dropping off my bill, the waitress sighs heavily and begins rolling cutlery in large white cloths. She has had tourists all day; Europeans who are used to having the tip included in the cost of the meal. Children who can’t stop exclaiming over the horses! Outside! Look mommy, look!

She has been wearing her boots for five hours, without stopping to stretch her toes, massage her feet or even pull up the sock that has fallen indolently below her ankle. She pauses now to turn up the country music that can scarcely be heard over the din of chatter in the bistro. By weeks end everyone will be sick of country music but for now it is a welcome distraction.

I place my money in the bill fold, leaving an extra large tip as I know too well what she is going through. I walk out of the bistro as the first raindrop falls to the earth. The door swings shut behind me, and still the chefs garnish, toss and grill. And still the tomatoes hold hands.

10 responses

  1. Beautiful post. I wish more people were adventurous and wrote in this style on occasion, but I suppose I’m just as guilty.

  2. I love your observations. People watching is a great way to pass the time.

  3. I really loved this, your writing is fantastic!I love people watching, I could do it all day if given the chance!

  4. Ditto to all the above. A really nicely written post. Poor waitress. Not all Europeans are like that!

  5. I love people watching! Thanks for the comments y’all. I’m trying to experiment with different styles of writing ;>

  6. You describe everything so well, it was almost like I was there too.

  7. “I once cried because we went to the same restaurant and they sat us at the same table and I was sure we were going to order the same thing we had last time…Even back then, at five years old, I needed change”I remember feeling this way so often, even still. (p.s. i really enjoy your writing!)

  8. Nicely said. And I have to say, that I’ve participated in those Stampede liquid lunches more often than I can remember. Usually they were the only food of the entire day- minus the Stampede pancakes had at breakfast.

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