"Aren't you ready yet? We need to get going". She calls out, from downstairs, like the call of a falcon as it prepares to dive for its prey. She has been waiting for this for sometime, a night out. A night out with friends, family, and whoever else might show up. I, myself, don't look forward to these things as much as she does. Its like a strange ceremony, I just end up going through the motions like being in some boring roller coaster with no hills, I just keep on going round in circles. Not to say I don't enjoy their company, I am just not(or really have been for years now) a people person. When I was a kid, maybe, but that has long changed." Yeah". I tell her." I will be right down. We are going to this restaurant downtown called Kobe's, its a Japanese restaurant of sorts, were the chef is right in the middle of the table cooking. It always makes me nervous though, as I always feel like I should talk to the chef, but never have anything to say(the story of my life). On the drive there, I can start to see the streetlights flicker back to life from a long days sleep, as the water pounds itself onto the beach like the angry fists of God. Its nice out here at night, quiet, and calm, and devoid of most signs of life. We live about an hour outside the city, so there is not much nightlife out here, except for the cars that seem to wander around as if on their own accord.
"You do remember how to get there, don't you?".
"Of course, we have been there before".
"Okay". She says." I am just remembering the last time".
"The last time?". I ask." What last time are you referring".
"The last time, you know, when we got lost on our way to my cousin's, we were an hour late".
"That was like three months ago, how often are you planning on bringing this up exactly".
"I don't want to fight okay, I just want to get their in peace". Our relationship has been a little on the rocky side of late, the only problem is I am not sure she realizes this fact. She has always been blissfully unaware of the relationship woes. Obviously though, its mostly my fault, I know I should bring things up, and I have at certain intervals throughout the years. But every time I have done so she really didn't seem to care, as nothing changed. So I just been conditioned, in a sense, to keep my mouth shut.
Pulling up to the restaurant, I can immediately see the crowd of people surrounding the parking lot, like a murder of crows that are just there to piss everyone else off. As the cars that stroll through haplessly honk there horns into submission. I am never sure if people are just being idiots, or just blissfully unaware of what they are doing. When it comes my turn a few of them come towards my car tapping on the window like they're at the aquarium. I slightly nudge them, trying to teach them a lesson, that only proves to get me hit by my wife. As we eventually get out of the car, everyone yells out at once(although not synchronized) sounding like some choir who ends up singing different songs all at once. Every time we come out here and do this, which mind you isn't all that often, everyone acts as if they are meeting for the first time, like long lost brothers that just learned of each others existence.
"Frank! Judy! How have you two been, you didn't get lost did ya?".
"No". Judy says, reluctantly." Not this time, I made sure of that". She says giving me a little shove of the elbow, as if to say she's kidding. This is James, a friend of the families, his wife, Marie, stands over at the other end of this human oil spill talking to the general populace. They had some problems a while back, almost broke up, or did, I am not sure, there is seemingly a lot always going on in this little group of ours. He is a nice guy though, one of the few People I really don't mind talking to. Making our way into the place, I can hear all the schizophrenic voices surrounding me talking about everything from family relationships to sports and weather. Judy's voice, funnily enough, always breaks through. No matter what noises may be emanating from the surrounding area her voice is always audible. Even talking on the phone with her is like an Olympic event, you have to practically have the receiver in the next room so it doesn't blow your eardrums out. Inside, a sea of people bump and grind each other back and forth, like the rise and fall of the tides. This place is always busy though, which is surprising, seeing on how expensive it is.
"Hey Frank!". A voice calls out." You see the game last night?". I look over and find Pete, squeezing himself in between a crowd of people that is not apart of our group." No, no, I missed it. I was busy". He means the hockey game. He is a big Boston bruins fan, and he likes to bug me because I told him once I liked Vancouver. I am not really a big fan though, he is just one of those guys that thinks your kidding with stuff like that. Like the male ego has some pre-programming towards liking sports and things society deems manly. But I just go along, as with some people, its just plain useless to argue with them." You missed a good game my friend, a good game indeed".
"Oh yeah?". I say." I hears your team lost, must of been a great one than huh!"
"Ha ha! Yeah, it was, it was". The crowd is now beginning to slowly disperse, as dinner time is about done. Usually when we all go out its normally after the societal norm, that way it's less busy. This place is set up almost like a apartment building, with downstairs being the lounge were all the awaiting customers sit in hopes of being called next. At the end of this room to the left is a circular stairwell painted black that goes to the eating area. Even the main area down here is set up in sanctions, with long black couches going parallel to each other from one side to the next. In the middle of the these (two sided) couches lay the plant life that seems to almost reach out at you like the tentacles of some mythical beast. It's a high class place, makes me feel woozy just walking in.
"They're calling our name honey, you ready?".
"Yeah, of course, lets go!". This man, dressed in mostly white, with the exception of a blue shirt, guides us upstairs through the crowds of people. I feel as if we are in the middle of the Amazon, cutting our way through the thick plant life, eventually, like all those early explorers, make our way to the proverbial temple that is the dining area. It is really nice up here, all the tables have there own personal chefs. The walls are a bluish grey with windows adorning the far side, barely visible blinds line each one that are either pulled up or down at random. While black suited waiters/waitresses run back and forth between tables holding drinks and other miscellaneous things. Its just as busy up here as it is downstairs. Our guide eventually stops at one of the tables, to the right, and we all take our seats as the chef is already in the midst of preparations." So Frank, are you guys going down to Susan's this Sunday night, should be fun. Some BBQ, some beers, some good times, should be great".
"Yeah we will be there Pete". My wife says cutting me off." Don't you worry about that".
"Oh! I am sorry Frank, I didn't know your on a time out".
"Well Pete, whatever I say must be first filtered through her, to make sure its socially acceptable".
"Kind of like a universal translator in a sense". Megs chimes in for the first time. She has always been a shy one, not really saying to much when crowded by people. One on one is a bit different though, as(depending on the person) she generally feels more comfortable.
"You guys are so delusional, he can say whatever he wants. He doesn't need my permission or anything like that".
"Right Judy(which is my wife's name) of course you don't do that". As the conversation pauses, we all give off a good laugh, before another voice speaks up and says.
"So to steer this horse back on course, why is it that everyone is going to Susan's anyways?".
"Oh its just some annual BBQ Meg's, that's all". I tell her." I think its just to rub her good fortune onto her friends, if you ask me".
Susan is a good person overall, she just has that part of her brain that tries to shove her good will onto others, I am not even sure she realizes that she's doing it to begin with.
As the chef finishes preparing our food, we all become silent, as we sit there staring at our plates like a bunch of twelve year old's that just got handed there first phone. Once you actually stop, and look around, you realize how strange and futile it really is. Like a strange sermon being conducted by some enigmatic cult leader. I can still hear voices pop up here and there from random corners of the restaurant, that for some reason cut through the rest of the noise. Its like having a conversation on acid, all the voices speak of bits and pieces that fit together as a whole, but wholly make no sense whatsoever. Our little group, now split into smaller sanctions, all carry conversations all there own, while I pick at my plate listening in on my wife speak to Marie about her day at work and all the nuts she runs into. Once you listen to people speak over and over like I have (on my own accord or not) you realize how much people go in circles, always hitting on the same subjects but just from varying angles. I always found the world to be a strange place, like I never really fit, like a piece of the wrong jigsaw puzzle that accidentally got mixed in with the rest. Its hard to describe really, but I am sure a lot of people feel the same way, so I have not put to much thought into it otherwise. As I am thinking this over, I look over once again to see Judy and Marie have stopped conversing and now have both there eyes firmly planted on me." Everything alright Frank". Asks Judy." Yeah, I'm fine, why do you ask?".
"No reason Frank". Marie says." Just that you've been staring off into space for a few minutes now. Thought maybe you fell asleep".
"No, no". I say." I was just thinking, that's all".
"That must have been some thought than". Pete calls out, as the group begins to chuckle. As this is happening the waitress comes over between me and my wife sporting a tray full of dirty cups and dishes from random customers throughout the place. The waitress is surprisingly short actually, she must be not any taller than about five feet or so, five or take. She sports a blond pixie cut that makes her look like Tinkerbell has been plucked from the pages and slapped right in front of us. She wears these black pinstriped business pants with a dark blue shirt that is seductively unbuttoned to give the slightest glimpse of her skin underneath." Anyone want any refills". She calls out. Everyone kind of looks around at each other as if no one wants to go first. Until I speak up." I would absolutely love some, if that is not too much trouble on your part?".
"No no, of course not". She says as she reaches for my glass grazing my arm with hers." I will be right back".
"I'll be waiting". I tell her, as she walks off towards the kitchen. Looking over towards the group I see the confused and eye rolling expression on Judy's face as if I have done something wrong(which I probably have). The group on the other hand, doesn't seem to have noticed, they just keep on talking amongst themselves about odds and ends and whatever else interests them. After a few more minutes though the waitress comes back and places my drink in front of me. Before she leaves though, she places her hand on my shoulders and says." Will there be anything else there sir!".
"No, thanks, you have done more than enough!". Judy chimes in, in a almost snarky tone to her voice. As the waitress leaves, I feel a kick to my shins that is most obviously coming from my wife. As she does this though her facial expression never changes from that over exaggerated smile she forces upon the group.
At the end off the dinner we all say our goodbyes, once again acting as if we are all simultaneously dying or something, they are just too overly emotional for my taste. Judy and I, sitting in our car, watching the rest of the people drive off, in silence, until Judy looks over and and says in what only could be described as a muffled scream." What the hell was that!".
"What was what?". I ask, confused, though knowing full well what she's getting at." You know full well what was what. That, in there, with the waitress?".
"It wasn't anything, I was just being nice".
"Being nice". She smirks." I call that being a little more than nice". She tells me." Oh! I'll be waiting". She says, mocking what I said earlier." I got to get my jollies somehow, right". I smile.
"That's not nice". She finally calls out, before pulling the car out to begin the journey home. The drive is quiet, and unsettling, an the only voice that we hear is at random intervals between songs on the radio. When we finally get home, we turn on the lights to the living room and put our stuff away into the closet by the front door. As soon as we get in we go our separate ways, as we tend to ignore the issues instead of dealing with them. I head upstairs and put on my pajamas(animal from the Muppet's) while Judy hits up the bathroom to get ready to go to bed. I eventually find myself downstairs with the television on, Judy up in the bedroom sleeping. There isn't all to much on TV right now, but in twenty minutes David Letterman starts up. Watching his show is almost has turned into a kind of custom, as I have been watching for quite a few years now. It has, as of late, turned into an excuse to fall asleep down her on the couch. I don't do it all the time mind you, but I know when its a good idea to at that. When Letterman finally comes on, and he runs out onto the stage like he does pretty much every show, that is when I see the light come on from upstairs. Its not like Judy to get up like this,usually when she sleeps she's like a rock. But surely enough, down she walks stumbling on her way as her eyes try to focus once more on in the presence of light. She sits beside me on the couch, and doesn't say anything for about a minute or so, until finally letting her voice be heard." You know Frank, you don't have to sleep down here tonight you know".
"I know, I was just watching some t.v". Her eyes now meet the floor, as I am totally out the door as what is going to come out of her mouth next." Its just". She starts." Its just I miss you".
"I am right here, I've always been right here".
"I know, its just we have hit a kind of rough patch lately, and I feel like we're drifting apart".
"I know babe, I know. There is just certain things we need to work on, need to talk about".
"Maybe in the morning, over breakfast". She says.
"Maybe". I say, before pausing." I think that would be a good idea". She smiles, as her hand reaches over to find my thigh, and says." Well, how about in the meantime, you meet me upstairs, I'll be waiting".
# chapter 2.
When I awake the next morning, I awake to an empty bed. An as i look at the clock beside me I find it to only be 7:30 am. She has never been the one to get up so early on her days off. As almost every other day its usually 6:00 am start time, that way she has about an hour or so to waste before she has to leave. She works just a few blocks away, ten or so minutes, at the elementary school as a grade school teacher. Which oddly enough, could be the source of our aversion to having kids just yet. But as i wonder were she went, and what she's up to, I decide to get up and start my long pre-coffee descent downstairs into the kitchen. An as I get ever closer I can begin to hear Judy(or who I hope is Judy) rummaging around making all types of noises I haven't heard in sometime." Hey honey". I say." What's uhh! What's going on".
"Oh nothing, just was thinking about what you said last night, and decided that maybe I would cook some breakfast for us this morning. Come on, sit down, before your coffee gets cold". I sit down at the table, where the coffee already waits as its steam rises as if in impatience. Judy is up at the stove, with wafts of bacon and eggs filling the air. As she is up there cooking, she wears these sweat type mini shorts dawned with a oversize sweater that's on the verge of swallowing each of her hands before she finally rolls up each sleeve." So". I pause." What was it exactly that I said last night that brought us to this inevitable conclusion?". She laughs, quietly, an almost strangled laugh that wants only to get out." It was when you told me that you've always been here, it didn't really get me at first actually. Its not until later on at night that I really got what it meant, whether you realize it or not". She stops what she doing, and turns her attention towards me, before beginning." I know our relationship hasn't been, how would you say, up to par. But when you said that, I realized that if I was in your position, or if any other man was in your position. He,or I, might not be as loyal as you have been. I mean, look at what happened to megs not too long ago".
"What happened to megs".
"Oh Frank, I am trying to say something here".
"I'm sorry honey, I appreciate all that you said, but I am not innocent in all this. But we can put all that behind us, cant we? Start new, like two crazy newlyweds".
"I would love that Frank". She says, as she kisses my forehead.
"So than". I say." What did happened to megs exactly?". The light from the kitchen window, that falls onto the table, makes a pattern of lines like a sheet of paper. As I look at it, I start to think about all the little scenarios and events Judy and I have found ourselves in. As if each line represents a certain facet of our life's. I wonder if we are kind of the same way, somewhat close together but never connected. Just like the lines of light created as they pass through the blinds. Now that I think about it, it has never been easy, like there is some unknown force between us. But at the same time, no matter how bad it has gotten(which on hindsight is not that bad, considering) I have always found myself to be calmer, more relaxed around her, as if she's the glue that keeps me together. I know a lot of guys think the same way, as it is quite the cliched notion, buy true nonetheless.
My breakfast, has now materialized in front of me, along with Judy sitting on the opposite end of the table, with a quiet smirk upon her face." Is everything okay over their?". Judy asks." Yeah, I'm okay, I was just thinking of things".
"What things were you thinking about".
"Oh". I say." Just us, that's all, just us. I was thinking maybe tonight, after I get home from work, we can go out, just you and me on a kind of romantic getaway. To celebrate our newly found understanding".
"That would be nice, maybe we can go to that lovely little place down the street, what is it called again?". She asks rhetorically." The Night Out!". She screams, in a muffled like tone." Its supposed to be quite the romantic place I hear".
"I would hope so, with a name like that". For breakfast, she made Bacon, eggs, and hash browns, and the good hash browns at that. The ones that are basically tiny potatoes that still just happen to have there skin still partially on. Its still fairly early in the day, and unfortunately I have to begin my morning trek to get ready to go. Every time it seems like a journey, not cause there is a lot to do or anything, its just because it involves the exact same motions day in and day out. Just to get to a job that happens to be the same way. I am one of those worker bee's, that sits in there little cubicle all day punching the keyboard. Surrounded by grey boorish walls that all at one try to assimilate you into submission. Its one of those events in life that make you look back and wonder how you even got here in the first place. An the more I think about it, the more mysterious it becomes, like ten or so years of my life has just been wiped out from existence, as far as my memory is concerned anyway. Judy, still sitting across from me, now holds up one her magazines to her face, looking as if the person adorning the front cover has explicitly taken over her body. It is one of those Cosmo relationship magazines, I can barely make out one of the headlines, which reads ' how to get a better boyfriend in ten easy tasks'. An article that maybe needs to be read I would think. I am guessing in a magazine like that they would not differentiate too much between boyfriend and husband. I do think I could use some finer points on being one." Well this was all very wonderful, but I got to get going, my cubicle awaits". Judy puts down the magazine and forces the last bits of breakfast down before saying." OK honey, you have a good day, I will see you tonight".
Now at work, I am at my desk that sits surreptitiously in the middle of this cubical maze." Hey Frank". A voice says." Did you end up going to that restaurant the other day". Its Johnson, one of my coworkers, standing behind me with each hand leaning on both sides of the cubicle walls." Yeah we did, it was pretty nice". We have been to that before, like I might have said earlier, but some details seem to pass right through him like some kind of neutrino. An there is no sense really fighting it." An the waitresses there aren't too bad either huh!".
"Yeah". I tell him, as my chair begins to squeak, while turning towards him." One of the girls there was hitting on me".
"How so?". He asks.
"When she would sit my drinks on the table in front of me, her hands would graze mine, as if she was trying to steal my watch or something. And just the way she was talking, and stuff to. Every time she left, as well, her hand would find my shoulder practically giving me a massage".
"So what happened exactly, what did you do?".
"Nothing, I didn't do nothing. Although Judy thinks I was flirting with her".
"How so exactly?".
"I don't know, some comment I made when she left to get my drinks, apparently its not what I said, but how I said it".
"Yeah, that's always the way it goes isn't it Frank". Says Johnson." Anyways, Mr. Miller has been seen wandering around here, so I should get going before I get a talking to". He says with air quotes, as he has been talked to before, it usually consists of our boss (Mr. Miller) asking rhetorical questions, it's more talking to himself than anything else. It is quite amazing, once you actually think about it. How you work your way through school, dreaming about the moment when you can throw that hat in the air and call it a day. You wait for that moment don't you, you think that things will pick up and no more will you have to stay after school and go through all the details of what you just so happened to do wrong in any specific class through out the day. Only to finally get to work, and find that that principal has just moved along with you in the form of your boss. You never really get out of that kid stage do you, at least most of us. The only difference is, is that proverbial backpack seems to get heavier every year.
My job has never been one of such fun, you don't hear about it on TV, or kids having college type discussions on what they want to be when they get older, you don't see it on commercials telling you to come to this school to learn this type of thing, there is no attractive person shouting to you through the television screen on how it changed his/her life. Its just one of those jobs you wake up to one morning and find your life is totally ensconced in it. It isn't a bad thing though, but nonetheless, it is menial, it'll grind your knuckles to the bone, if you don't take some time off every so often. A few hours into it, Johnson once again finds his way unto my doorstep." Hey Frank". He says." Are ya coming for lunch. I am thinking about that place across the street, Damien's, supposed to have great burgers, thought you would want to join". Damien's is a Burger joint just across the street, about a block away, but for all intensive purposes, across the street. I have never been, as its one of those inner city Hipster style joints that's adorned in dark brooding colors like some 30's brothel you might see on t.v. I have passed by a time or two, and have taken a look at the menu that decorates their front window. All their burgers use weird ingredients, like the turtles pizza from that cartoon a few years back. It doesn't really sound all that good, I think to myself, but every other place around here has been getting stale as of late." I have made a lunch of my own, but sure, what the hell, I'll will come". Downstairs, in front of the building, Johnson stops in his tracks after about five or so feet." Hey John, what are you doing, lets go". He still stands there, not answering, looking away as if mesmerized by the row of vehicles that seem to sleep on the edge of the sidewalk." That van". He says, before I cut in." What van, what about it?". He points over toward this nondescript white GM, the old logo from an lawn mowing company is thinly veiled in white paint. There are no windows, and the front windshields are blackened out as to not see in. It does look a bit odd, I will give him that, but any wanna be gangster could have done that. Who knows, could just be a delivery van carrying expensive objects that might be stolen if seen." Its been sitting there since early this morning. And come to think about it, it was here yesterday at that". As we stand in the middle of the sidewalk all the passersby all but ignore us, except for the odd elbow every so often as a sort of passive aggressive way of saying to us, ' get the hell outta the way'. Its kind of the law of the land around here, basically pretending that we are a lot more polite than we actually are.
Inside Damien's, we decide to take our seats right by the window, as the waiter waits around the bar trying to look nonchalant. Its a strange atmosphere, all the employees employ wacky costumes that could only go well with the 70's mustaches most the men sport. So much for being cool by not trying to be cool anymore. I have always found the whole Hipster culture quite odd, it just seems as though the more they try to be different from each other the more they dress alike, but I am not pretending to be an expert on such things at that. For, in reality, I am the one who wears basically the same outfit everyday.
Looking at the menus, hoping to find something of a normal variety, I decide to get the Mediterranean, as its probably the one they put on there for guys like me. But on top of that, I do love feta cheese and olives, so I have that at least. Johnson orders the Benedict Burger, which is basically what you think it is, Eggs Benedict on a Burger topped with your choice of cheese. Sounds not to bad either actually, although I would imagine it to be quite the mess. The place is busy, not to surprising coming from this part of town, most company's, like us, hang around here, like school children on the cool part of the field during recess. It really has turned into a type of community, a village all on its own in a way. I know almost all the other people from other office's, competing or not. We all stick with our own little clicks for the most part, but we have known to in various establishments every now and again.
When Johnson and I eventually finish, we head on back to the office, at the front doors though he once again stands facing the street watching the van as if he's sneaking up on it.
"Its hardly been an hour john, the owner probably works in our building".
"Yeah". He says." Your probably right". We end up taking the stairs, as when we walk in a crowd has formed in front of the elevator, as if a rock star has shown up or something. I can tell he is still thinking about that van though, he tends to be like that, obsessed about things. I don't ask him about it though, as I have had this conversation before about multiple things.