Eat Here Now
The project - and I'm not late, just delayed with the holiday that passed - was to write a one-page scene, including a bit of dialogue, that describes a time and place and introduces a couple of people. Here it is.
Eat Here Now
For our last night in Manhattan, we planned on enjoying a no-plan night. Over the three days behind us, we had enjoyed catered fair. We’d dined bayside on Long Island’s moneyed end. We’d brunched and supped wearing dry-cleaned clothes, with familiar family friends side-glancing at new New York friends to see which fork was the right fork right now.
Charlene and I, enjoying don’t-think-about-it weather, began walking up the still-sunny side of 2nd Ave. around 5 pm. With complete confidence or perhaps simple indifference, she strolled the clamorous Upper East Side with the same self-reliance that carried her through peaceful Winona, Minn. I’d not seen this side of my mother-in-law before, or maybe I just hadn’t been alone with her to notice. Impressive and surprising, Charlene was uniquely able to tune out the smothering city around her. Now in her 70s, she’d honed this skill to perfection as the mother of 11 kids – including the one I was married to.
Charlene might have preferred to be alone, honestly, and maybe the same for me. But the rest of our family flew home that day, and I wasn’t going to leave mom-in-law alone in the big city. An unlikely pair, on strange streets, we searched for the perfect dinner spot. Her perfect and my perfect were as different, however, as the Winona Daily News and the New York Daily News. Still, we were set on finding a dinner story we could both enjoy.
“The Star Diner looks nice and clean,” Charlene said quietly, pointing into a nearly empty cafeteria that had far too much jello on display. “Let’s keep looking,” I said when I really meant “Oh hell no.”
Charlene smiled toward the Gotham Café and its cracking vinyl booths. She hoped the advertised Turkey Dinner special might entice me; we were just two weeks away from Thanksgiving. “It’s such a nice night,” I said hoping to distract her from the mashed potatoes and gravy. “Let’s walk another block or two.”
I had NY pizza on my mind. Or maybe a street cart hotdog. I wanted food to remember, whether for good or bad. But I knew I had to let Charlene have her New York too. We were an unlikely pair, but we’d stick together. We smiled at each other and walked side-by-side, but we didn't talk much as we passed 69th St., then 70th. The Afghan Kebab House at 71st St. sent grilled meat aromas my way, but I ignored them.
Charlene’s pace was slowing, my hunger was growing. And when we got through the crowd surfacing from the 72nd St. Subway Station, I spotted our solution. At 2nd & 73rd, the Eat Here Now Diner shared a wall with Little Vincent’s Pizza. The unlikely pair gave us a perfect opportunity to eat together.