I need a break from my cooking. Eating out presents me with a conundrum. For some, unexplained reason, when I offer an invitation, my friends increasingly make excuses not to join me. They tell me they have Bible study. Their sister’s coming over. Lemo, her cat, is blue and she needs to there for her. I mentally go through my checklist of people I’ve asked to join me for dinner. I’m looking for someone who’s compassionate, forgiving, and with a short memory. I run through 15 possibilities. I decide to text Eileen.
Want to go out for Mexican?
Eileen texts back, Are you going to embarrass me again?
I text, All I did was ask to see the Health Department Inspection Report.
Eileen texts, We were fourth in line when you shouted, “Where is the Health Grade. It’s supposed to be displayed in public view? Everyone turned and stared at us.”
I was trying to protect you. It’s a guy thing. We can’t help ourselves, I text back in protest.
Eileen texts, When we got to the front of the line, you wouldn’t give them your name until you saw the health grade. Do you know how long the line was behind us?
I was protecting them as well. It’s a burden, few will accept. You can see why my shoulders are bent. I used to be 6’4″ now, I’m only 5’11”. I’ll be shopping in the boy’s department before long. If you go with me, I promise I won’t ask for the health report.
Eileen texts, Is this conversation going to appear on your blog?”
Blog? This conversation? I don’t think you trust the male species.
Eileen texts, Your species has a track record.
I change the subject, I hear El Toro has great nachos.
You don’t eat nachos, texts Eileen.
Good point, you going to dinner with me? I’m hungry.
K. Give me an hour.
An hour later I pick Eileen up. We decide to go to El Toro. I don’t care for the prices, but I like the name’s masculinity. My species, all I can say, “Mercy, por favor.”
We arrive at El Toro. I’m on my best behavior. We walk in. Eileen quickly points out the block A on the wall to my left. I said, “I feel better already. Does it give a date of the inspection?”
Eileen whispers, “Don’t press your luck.”
We chit chat for twenty minutes, munch on chips and sip iced tea. I hear a squeaky, I want to say prepubescence voice, but I know the woman is at least sixteen going on twenty-eight if you know what I mean. The voice says, “Ray, par tee of two.” How do you write in a prepubescence voice? I’m calling NASA and asking for help. Maybe Watson at IBM can solve my dilemma.
She lead us to a table near the kitchen, I said, “I don’t want to sit near the kitchen.” I see Eileen roll her eyes.
The young woman said, “Let me see what I can do.” The voice, my eardrums ache. It affects me like fingernails drawn across a green board or blackboard.
“How about over there?” she says pointing with her right arm while she checks Instagram with her left hand. She points out a table next to the women’s bathroom door. I point to a different table, “No one is sitting there,” I said.
“The table by the bathroom door is better. If you have to go, you don’t have to go far,” she laughed at her joke.
I said, “I don’t want to sit next to the bathroom door. ”
The voice rolls her eyes, grabs two place settings. I know I’ll make some social network in very descriptive terms. Eileen is staring at a knife on the table near us. I’m wondering if I crossed the line? Maybe I’ll offer to pick up the tab.
I hold Eileen’s chair while she sits. I’m thinking this gesture will go a long way to erasing the last ten minutes. I said, “Nice place, El Toro. It’s on me tonight,” I check to see if Eileen has a concealed weapon. They’re legal in Texas.
Eileen said, “I’ll have a glass of wine, too.”‘
That one hurt.
We look at the menu. Eileen’s done quickly. I ponder a bit longer.
“A problem, Ray?” asked Eileen.
“Oh no. I’m going to have the fish tacos.”
“I’ve had them here before, they’re very good.”
Marco, the waiter, comes by to take our order. Eileen orders enchiladas Verdura. I like it, a nice modest entree. I’m thinking about my Mastercard balance.
“And, for you sir?” asks Marco.
“I have a question or two about the menu, Marco. Can I substitute salmon for the tilapia in my fish tacos?”
“That’s highly irregular. Our chef has a certain way of preparing tacos. He’s very sensitive.
“Tell the chef, I’m maxing my omega 3’s.”
“What’s that sir?”
“While you’re checking with him. I want to substitute fat-free black beans for the refried beans. I want my Pico de gallo on the side. No cheese on my tacos. But I want extra sides of your hot salsa.”
“Is that it sir?”
“Can I have two flour tacos and one corn taco?”
“I’ll have to add an extra dollar.”
Marco leaves. I look across the table, “Eileen? Eileen?
Lesson learned. Enjoy the moment. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Being with a good friend is priceless.