On the last day of the semester, I scheduled a hair cut at the salon located in an ever popular shopping mall. The second week of December is not the time to go to the mall, especially on a Friday afternoon. Long ago, I found a double-secret parking area where I've never been left without a spot nearest the door. And this Friday, even in December, was no exception.
Inside the mall, however, was standing room only. The Food Court was a zoo. Hungry and tired from teaching, answering questions like, "Do we have to take the final?" "When is the final?" for hours in a row, I had to eat before sitting in the salon chair, or I knew I'd faint.
Suddenly, I remembered the Bistro at Nordstroms. Someone recently told me I should check it and today was the day.
Standing in line, a long line, I became aware that these patrons were a different lot from the Food Court zoo. Strollers, toddlers, shoppers, and clerks stood in this line with a different attitude. What a great idea, I thought. Here I am far from the madding crowd.
Two blonde 30-something sisters with their daughters about four or five-years-old, one child slighlty taller than the other, holding hands and dressed in pink, come out of the Bistro looking calm and happy. Practically skipping into the Nordstrom's women's department.
Standing next to me in line is a man I identify as distincly non American. He is casually dressed in tan cuffed slacks and a black rather sporty zipped down jacket revealing a dark naby dress shirt. His black leather shoes have a decorative buckle partially hidden under the cuff. His hair is perfectly cut, with the front, now gray, combed straight back where it mingles with the black wavy hair in the back. It's a European style.
A woman walks up, "Hi, sweetie!" I think that if I were meeting this man for lunch, I would not say Sweetie. "Darling" I'd say, or I'd use his name. She's not gorgeous. She's not blonde. She's not trim. She's not well dressed. She's average. Medium height shorter than I'd expect, 5'3"), wearing jeans, a little rump heavy, but average. She has a coat length jacket on and a striped turtle neck (from Macy's when Macy's was Famous; I saw them two years ago; a friend of mine has one). Her hair shows no gray and comes a bit past her shoulders with highlights about a year old. When she speaks I notice braces--the invisible kind you aren't supposed to notice. She's American, mid-western accent. He speaks to her with an accent which sounds Greek to me.
They converse about the day, his day, her day. Soon it sounds medical. A doctor. She holds her own, asking diagnostic questions, and shows an understanding of his dilemna with a patient. Maybe he married a nurse. More likely she married a doctor whom she met when she was a nurse at Barnes-Jewish. I see the ring. It's gargangtuan. They are next to order.
The line moves ahead and I step up to the counter to order my Nicoise Salmon Salad and Michelobe Ultra; I pay, turn around and look for a table. I see a booth seat with no chair across the small table--perfect a single diner. No one is seated at the next table with whom I'll share the long booth seat to my right. But there's a jacket on the back of the chair.
After two or three minutes, the nurse and doctor return to the table. I now recognize the jacket on the chair as his. I continue to write in my notebook, details of the Bistro and them. They are 18 inches away from my elbow. Now this is surreal. She'a on the booth seat, he's facing her and kitty cross from me.
I notice the St. Louis Blues insignia on his navy shirt. I can't hear the details of their lunch conversation over the droaning voices of fellow diners and the clatter of dishes in the Bistro. His pasta arrives and her soup of the day. They share fries. They drink ice-tea.
The Bistro is crowded. All the table are filled now. I see no other patrons dining alone. And no one esle is drinking beer. I'm impressed with myself. Mothers and daughters, girlfriends taking time away from shopping, and gray haired couples relax in the chic Bistro enjoying heaping bowls of Ceaser salad and sandwhiches made with fresh, crisp bread.
My Nicoise salad arrives. Presentation is splendid. I'm ravenous. A large piece of warm salmon rests atop the greens with a hard boiled egg quartered and evenly arranged at the edge of the shallow bowl. Long thin green beans, "French" the menu said, peak out from under the colorful assortment of lettuce, olives, red onion, and potatoes. I dig in, with good grace. Delecious. Better than I could expect salad to be. The beer is refreshing, too, between bites. I'm totally distracted from my neighbors and barely notice that they are finished their lunch.
I look up when they stand to leave. They don't look in my direction and they don't say good-bye.