It all started with an unassuming man drinking a bottle of beer at the bar in the restaurant where I work. I’ll call him Johnny Two-Time.
Johnny is staring at a menu when I ask him if he’d like to order anything.
“No, I’m waiting for someone to join me,” he says with a wry grin.
And join him she does, about ten minutes later. I’ll call her Debbie New-Squeeze. Johnny and Debbie are seated in my section, same-side-sitting in the half-booth at Table 10.
While taking the couple’s order—a glass of sweet red wine for her and some cheese curds and a barbecue chicken pizza to share—I notice they’re pretty touchy-feely; she’s got her hand on his thigh, his arm is around her waist.
When I bring the pizza, Johnny requests another beer. He wants a draft instead of a bottle this time. A seemingly trivial decision, but one that Johnny would soon come to regret. . . .
I notice her near the door scanning the restaurant with piercing dark eyes. I’ll call her Olga Old-News. I walk up and offer assistance. Olga points toward Johnny across the floor and walks past me.
Johnny and Debbie don’t strike me as a couple waiting on a third wheel. But over at the server station, I start pouring a cup of water for Olga as she sits down across from Johnny. I make a move toward the table and witness Olga swat at Johnny’s beer glass. It’s as if I’m watching in slow motion as the sudsy contents land all over Johnny’s lap!
I suddenly realize what’s going on here. Olga is Johnny’s old lady, and Johnny is fuckin busted!
Johnny peers down at his soaked pants, flabbergasted. Debbie goes scurrying for napkins. And Olga rises calmly from her seat and makes her way out the door. A moment later, Johnny follows.
Debbie remains, and is now on her cell phone. I overhear her grumble into the receiver, “…and then she asked me where’s my man…,” before I inquire about her intentions.
Pulling away from her phone momentarily, Debbie says, “I’ll take the check, but first bring me another glass of wine.”
No problem. I’m sure you could use one.
As I’m printing the check a man gets up from the bar, I’ll call him Vinny the Vulture, and comes over to talk to me. Vinny has been watching the situation pretty closely. He doesn’t know any party involved, but Vinny has his sympathies. “That poor girl,” Vin says, motioning to Debbie.
He wants me to offer her a drink on his behalf. I tell Vinny that, currently, that might not be the best course of action.
Not to be dissuaded, Vinny makes his way over to Debbie and sits down next to her. She’s still on the phone. Vin begins talking to her. Debbie doesn’t receive him warmly, but is neither altogether repulsed.
“You don’t waste any time do you?” comes a voice from behind me.
Johnny’s back. He glares at Debbie as he arrives at the table while shooing away Vinny like he’s a stray dog sniffing around a picnic in the park.
Soon, Vinny is back at the bar, and Johnny and Debbie are conversing again. I blink and Olga has reappeared. She may have ninja training. She’s on her feet, hovering above Johnny and Debbie seated at the table.
After Johnny was treated to a beer shower, he’d taken his phone out of his pocket and placed it on the table. Johnny’s phone is now in Olga’s firmly clinched hand.
Ah, smartphones. They provide a slew of ways to converse with the outside world: call, text, tweet, Facebook. They also keep pretty good record of that shit, including correspondence with your secret love-biscuit.
As Olga again walks calmly toward the door, her unfaithful lover’s phone in hand, I see Johnny’s facial expression morph from “What the..?” to “Oh shit!” Again he races off after Olga.
Not long after, outside the restaurant window I see that two police officers have joined Johnny and Olga. They’ve taken an interest in the dispute over the cell phone. My guess is they’re just making sure things between the spiteful duo don’t get out of hand.
Meanwhile, Vinny, who had been biding his time at the bar, makes his move again. He’s chatting away with Debbie, who is receptive, and smiling. Clearly there is chemistry here.
A few minutes go by before Johnny reenters the restaurant. Olga is gone. So are the cops.
“Everything okay?” I ask him.
Johnny forces a smile, “I got my phone back. I’m all good.”
Nuh-uh Johnny. Vinny is all over your girl.
Johnny moves wearily over to Vinny and Debbie, shaking his head. He sits down right between them on the booth seat.
The owner and I watch intently from across the floor, both terrified and giddy about what might happen next.
At the bar we overhear Vinny’s drinking companion, I’ll call him Smokey Joe, asking around for a cigarette. Joe grabs his coat and makes for the entrance.
“I’m going next door for cigarettes, come get me if my friend gets his ass kicked,” Joe says to us with a smile as he pulls on the door handle.
For the sake of this story, I kinda wish that all hell broke loose after Smokey Joe departed; that chairs were hurled with great abandon, aluminum pizza trays were flung like frisbees, and combatants tumbled into the kitchen where a whole range of sharp cooking utensils and pizza oven hellfire came into play.
But the truth is, hell did not break loose. The trio exchanged words for a while and then parted amicably. In the end, sensibility, compassion–dare I say it?–love, overcame.
When my shift was over I clocked out and looked over at the bar. At one end there were Johnny and Debbie drinking shots of tequila, courtesy of Vinny, who was sitting at the other end with Joe. Vinny gave a wave and a kind nod to Johnny and Debbie; the embattled couple then sealed it all with a kiss.
Sure it was anticlimactic. It wasn’t the cheap thrill, the break in the monotony of our mundane, humorless lives we were all hoping for; but I tell you what it was, man… it was beautiful. And it gave me something more than a punch line… it gave me hope.
And now, as I sit here recalling these events, I can’t help but think: All’s well that ends well! Ain’t love grand?! And …
Wait a sec, I hear something behind me…
“Oh, hey there Olga, I didn’t even hear you come in. You really are stealthy. What can I do for y…”
[sound of man being bludgeoned with hammer]
Editor’s note: C‘s last post for The Third City was Table 63….
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