note: a very short fiction story (and a bit strange)
“I’ll be sitting at Ella’s having a spinach and mushroom omlette around noon next Monday. Will you come?” he wrote on a piece of Starbucks napkin. He folded it up and put it in his pocket.
Later that day, he saw her walking to the corner grocery. She wore a flower print skirt and a light tanktop. She also wore thick sunglasses and carried a red bag. He walked up to her and handed her the piece of napkin.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“You’ll see,” he said as he walked away. He did not turn around but kept on walking.
Six days and three thousand miles later, he sat at Ella’s on Presidio Ave. It was foggy outside but the air was still very crisp. He had taken the bus and then walked about twenty blocks to work up his appetite. He had carried a copy of the Guardian that he picked up from the street corner back at his hotel in Nob Hill. He still preferred the Voice, but when it came to free papers, he never held them to a high standard. He read the latest Edible Complex column which talked about Thai food in the Upper Haight – he would probably swing by there later since he loved cheap Thai joints wherever he went.
“I’d like orange juice, spinach and mushroom omlette, and a side order of bacon please,” he told the waitress, a slim blonde with hazel eyes. She wore a maroon apron and navigated her way through the tables, all filled by the young professionals and senior citizens who frequented the place during lunch hours.
He looked through the classifieds and wondered how much rent went for, not that he’d move out here just yet. Maybe in a few years after he had saved up and could handle payments on both an apartment and a car. And maybe a decent job on the West Coast, he thought.
The juice and the food came. He ate slowly and continued to read the paper. He began reading articles that at first glance held no appeal. He checked his watch – a silver Seiko that his great aunt from Japan had given him for his graduation – and noticed that it was already a quarter to one. He paid the bill and left.
It was half past ten and the restaurant was fairly empty. An old couple sat by the window sipping on decaf coffee while a father and his son, about seven, shared a stack of pancakes and plump brown sausage.
She sat alone at the table closest to the open counter area, behind which you could see the kitchen staff preparing for lunchtime. Ella’s prided itself for its cleanliness and wanted its patrons to notice. She opened up her Chronicle and read the op-ed page. Definitely nowhere near the quality of the Times, she thought to herself. She decided not to read anymore, folding it up and putting it away in her red bag.
“I’ll have coffee – black, a bowl of fruit, and a side order of toast,” she told the waitress, whose short blonde ponytail and hazel eyes reminded her of a close friend from her college days.
She stabbed the last piece of fruit – a strawberry – and looked at it momentarily before sliding it off the fork with her lips and into her mouth. It was sour at first but eased into a familiar sweetness. She took out her cell phone and checked the time. It was almost eleven. She paid the bill and left.
It had been a nice trip. She loved Chinatown because it just felt older and more established than the one back home. She decided to buy herself a jade necklace because she felt that it would match well with her bluish green skirt. She looked through her red bag to take out cash when she noticed the Starbucks napkin lodged between her book – The Unbearable Lightness of Being (for the third time) – and her sunglasses case. She took the napkin out and read the scribble on it one more time.
She knew he would be there at noon, and yet, she couldn’t bring herself to see him face to face. She had come all the way out here on relatively short notice – the ticket wasn’t cheap – and she could only imagine, sitting by herself at Ella’s, what he would feel a few hours later. It would never work out anyway, she told herself. And yet, she was here, three thousand miles from home.
Her cell phone rang.
“Meet me at a place called Lotus Thai at seven,” he said. He hung up.
She smiled. She hoped to get there by five for an early meal.