Every once in a while, I come across stories I've written in other journals. This was a favorite from an early lunch at Barnacle Bill's in Sarasota, Florida, a place I love to eat. This is not so much about food as it is about freedom.
Janet is the name of the waitress. She has stopped by regularly, filled my raspberry tea, brought me some extra bread, and in general been top-notch.
I came to Barnacle Bill's to enjoy a meal and to remember the time my partner and I had come there for our anniversary dinner after hours of soaking in the sun and sand. It was to be a quiet lunch.
That was until I met Maureen.
I wanted to grab Maureen. Rush out the door quick like an action hero, like freaking Tank Girl, like anyone who could really move up and out in one swift motion.
I wanted to grab Maureen and run down Sarasota's Main Street - home of incense-soaked hippy women, boatless people who dress for boating, and magical skaterboys who will dance in the street off one cup of coffee.
I wanted to grab Maureen and get her the hell away from her parents. To rescue her from a life of being pecked at and being shot down Whack-A-Mole-style by these scattered and smothering people.
They babied an adult child, pushed hard enough to where she could not even fit a sentence in edgewise because her breath was sucked down, forced there by the aggressive word bubbles they kept blowing up and bursting on her. She was against a window.
Maureen sits pliant with her naked salmon.
"Is it good, Maureen?" asks mom.
"It's fine. Just fine," says Maureen from the table on the other side of my booth. There's an odd lilt in her voice. It starts higher and ends low, like she is trying to reassure herself that her entire being in fact is "fine" like her salmon.
"We can get a sauce for it, Maureen. Where's the waitress? This salmon needs a sauce."
I can't see Maureen and her mother, but this was the fourth or fifth exchange like this. Mom knows best. Maureen has a throat full of socks.
I'm alone, reading materials for a board meeting. Before I noticed them I was engrossed in my conch soup and French bread that is so close to perfection it is almost Cuban. But the distractions were ongoing and mom and dad were not going to give Maureen or myself any peace.
A drill in the next room is putting the finishing touches on the bar where I suspect Maureen may want to spend a few hours, months, or years.
Mom yells across the restaurant towards the hostess stand. "I hope they're not planning to work all the way through lunch." She's uptight, old, cranky, and not interested in niceties.
I look at the clock on my cell phone. 11:00. Not even noon yet.
The hostess says, "It's worse in the early morning." She knows it was sassy. She glances my direction and we share a very quick wide-eyed moment of empathy for one another. And for Maureen.
I wanted to grab Maureen and take her out and celebrate disagreement, to hear her resistance or whatever subjective voice she had, if it was still possible. If they would just go to the bathroom or run out for a Virginia Slim. If Maureen could just be alone for a second maybe we could flee?
Would she go with me? Or even alone?
Janet stopped by with some more bread. Maureen's mother got up, preceded by "Do you have a lady's room? Is it all the way in the back? All the way back there?"
She looked pissed. At what, I am just not sure. She passed me in a slight breeze of baby powder and Estee Lauder makeup.
Maureen and I were alone. I edged myself over to the very lip of my booth. Pushed one ass cheek off the left side and leaned over just a bit so I could get a better look.
Brown hair, probably just a bit older than my thirty-two years. A Marcia Gay Harden from a beach town sort. My glimpse could not last long. I have an easily-read face and I am sure Maureen would be able to tell what I was thinking. She'd know I wanted to grab her. This might be disturbing.
I wrote a simple note on my sprial pad. "They'll be back from the bathroom soon. Are you okay?" I signed it, "The Guy in the Next Booth." It was like I was writing Dear Abby. I folded the note and was ready to toss it to her when it felt like someone was coming up behind me. I got back in my seat and turned around.
But as soon as I recognized it was Janet, from the next table came an uproarious slurp. The end of a vanilla shake met with an eager Maureen wanting desperately to taste every last drop. It was as loud as the drill, a yawp of sorts. This was a hungry woman. Maureen was pulling every sugary drop into the depths of her.
I peeked over again. This time raising myself in my seat like I was leaving. Maureen was still alone and laughing her ass off.
I paid my check, left a double-tip for the waitress along with this story, and walked out the door without Maureen.
I think back on this now and wish I had gotten Maureen's address, but I know it's none of my business.