Last night, I sat in a Latin American restaurant, with blaring salsa music and a typical menu of meat, fish and ceviche. As the hispanic sounds of the lyrics and the conversations of the restaurant’s predominantly Latino customers swirled in my ears, I thought of you. When the waitress sat us down and handed us a menu, I thought about how you would hate the loud music, but you’d probably like the waitress.
I thought about how most of our interactions took place in restaurants and cafés, though if I am true to myself, a majority of those settings were drinking establishments. I can count the restaurants we ate at on both my hands because you were a creature of habit. When we walked into a restaurant you weren’t searching for the best food, nor seeking the best service, you were just looking for somewhere to be sociable. You always knew the owners of the restaurants or cafés you took me to, and most were very happy to know you, others I’m sure had had their issues. Not that they would have told me, because whatever you had done you were able to mend it with a charming smile and a promise of doing better next time. I guess I wasn’t the only one to fall for it.
I remember how the waiters who knew you were always very accommodating, the young men were intent on showing their respects and the young women often failed to conceal the effects of your charm. If we sat inside, you would pick a room that had the best view of the rest of the restaurant. If we sat outside, as we so often did, we would always look out onto the streets. You were always on the look-out for acquaintances, some older than others. Some, more tenuous than others.
I recall our conversations, whether over food or a drink, being constantly interrupted by a flow of greetings. I could never get over how often this would happen, how many people you gave time to. Your memory for many things, including the correct date of my birthday, was often elusive, but for the people you knew, it seemed to know no limits. I’m sure there was an element of ego in all of this, but I also know that a big part of this was your genuine interest in those who played a role in your life, however big or small. You had a story for all of them, and I know that they had one for you. Though, to this day, I don’t know if you had many stories of me. The kindness in your eye, the smile that lingered once your wit or stories had finished resonating, suggested you had all the time in the world for those you knew. In the end, it was time that eluded us.