He didn’t believe in love at first sight. Love was to complex of an emotion to give away on the fancy of one sense. For that matter, why sight? Why not sound? Touch? Or, as in his case, taste?
He was a creature of habit. Every Saturday morning, he got up early. He enjoyed getting the have-tos of his day done and in the books early so that the rest of the day was for him to enjoy at his leisure.
That and, quite frankly, he wanted to get out and not be surrounded by people. He liked people well enough, but his patience level was pretty low when it came to dealing with people in public venues. Shopping aisles or crowded sidewalks had a way of bringing out the worse in him.
It was why he was sitting at the two-seater table at Sal’s, the first customer through the door. It was one of those hipster kale-and-flaxseed-pancake type places that would have a line-up around the block by 8:30am. But at 7:15am, it was usually just him and one or two other unsocial people.
“Is this seat taken?” He looked up from the menu and at the woman smiling down at him. A quick scan of the restaurant showed that there were several chairs, empty tables. He couldn’t fathom why she needed the chair at his table.
“No. Take it.” He said, returning to the menu he didn’t have to read. He always ordered the same thing: three scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon and toast with house jam.
“Good,” she said and pulled it out slightly before sitting in it. She picked up the other menu on the table. “Gorgeous day, no?”
“Yes,” he paused. “I didn’t realize you wanted to sit here. That when you asked if the chair was taken–”
“That I meant I wanted to sit here?” She said and shrugged. Her face lost a bit of the smile, her blue eyes a bit of the sparkle. “Fair enough.
“Truth is, I hate taken up a four or even a two-seater for just me. Right? They don’t make single tables . . . Well, they do. But stools aren’t that comfortable, right?”
She pushed away from the table and he held up his hand. “Will you join me?”
He asked the question before he had time to think. The truth of it is, he understood. It was one of the reasons why he went to Sal’s so early in the morning. It took a long time before he was able to enjoy his coffee and paper without feeling rushed to free up the table for someone.
“Love to,” she said. The light radiated from her eyes. “So, what’s good here?”
“I don’t know. I only order one thing.”
Her face registered shock. “What? Why?”
“It keeps the disappointment to a minimum.” He said truthfully.
“Disappointment is a by-product of living. It means you were excited. Look forward to something with anticipation,” she said. “I order from the specials menu. The tried and true–”
“Predictable,” he offered.
“Right, predictable,” she laughed. “The predictable gets printed. The creative and playful dishes get added to the erasable board.”
“What can I get the two of you?” His usual waitress said, with casual interest in the woman across from him.
The two of them placed their order, his off the printed and hers from the specials board. He worried for a brief moment about the potential silence after the ordering ordeal was done.
Turns out he worried all for not for she was a great conversationalist. She told tales with her whole body about working at a news station, her love of brunch and how one finds themselves on a date that wasn’t a date.
She elicited his tales of his routine and his theory on structure leads to chaotic creative expression.
Time flew, and before he knew it, the two of them were parting ways on the sidewalk outside of Sal’s.
He went about his normal routine that weekend. Weeding in the garden, playing his guitar and grocery shopping. But it was a little bit different. He was a little bit different. He often caught himself smiling, or reading the specials listed on A-boards on the sidewalks.
He didn’t ask her name or where she hung out. A part of him was always looking for her, as if she was waiting just around the corner or in the next aisle. She was everywhere and yet nowhere.
The following weekend, he went about his weekend. He was up early, went for a walk and was at Sal’s before anyone else. Sitting in his usual seat, he resisted the urge to pick up the menu. Instead, he looked at the specials board.
“Flaxseed peach pancakes,” he said when his usual waitress inquired as to his order.
“Good choice,” she said with a wink.
He never saw her again. If their paths ever crossed again, he anticipated telling her that the specials were far from disappointing. In fact, it was love at first taste.