Right now I'm sitting in the Thai restaurant on the corner of 7th and Florida. It's a little after 12:00 p.m.. The lunch hour traffic is sliding back and forth like beads on an abacus. They obviously have some place to be. I like the food here. The flavors of ginger and curry are always enough to satisfy my palette. The decor is lovely - asian influences, golds and blues, flowers and elephants. It's probably not even close to any of the decor in Bangkok, but I like the illusion anyway. Today I'm not here because I crave a bowl of thom kha gai, though on dreary days like today this coconut milk soup fills the void in me like nothing else. No, the sights and smells of Thai cooking is not what draws me here today. I'm here because I had a dream.
I know I've told this story before. Most of you who read what I write have been regailed by this tale, and even some of you were there to witness the aftermath. I don't care. I'm telling it again. I was dumped in this restaurant. A few feet away from me, in one of the booths, someone I loved very much told me she didn't love me, that I deserved better, gave me a whole laundry list of excuses that boiled down to one overwhelming truth - she found a guy who was stronger, better looking, and could treat her like shit way better than I ever could. She said all of this before our food came to the table. It was my first time eating Thai food, and I didn't get to take one bite. The rest of the night past like you would probably expect. She cried and left. I threw my leftovers at an alley cat then got in my car to drink with my friends.
That was a long time ago...over five years, and I've had a lot of time to think about her, about us, about the right and wrong turns of it all. Ultimately I decided that a relationship with her would've been suicide. She and I were from such different worlds. She liked to party. I liked to read. Our worlds would have screeched like cars colliding head on. It was very hard, but I moved on and got over her. Her face, her voice, everything about her faded away to where she was no more than an afterthought in my mind. Then all of sudden she turned up in a dream.
I know I've talked about this dream before, but again, I don't care. I'm going to talk about it again. Sparky, Paul, Wofford, and Brittany were with me in a restaurant. It could've been Denny's. It could've been IHOP. Really, it doesn't matter...people were eating. From across the room I saw her walk in with another guy. My friends all see her too, and they immediately start saying things - "Look at that bitch," "Who in the hell does she think she is," "What a whore." - but she doesn't see any of us, and I just sit quietly and watch her. She and this guy seem to be having a good time. They talk. They laugh. They relish the moment like fine brandy, sipping it a little bit at a time. At some point she gets up to use the restroom and leaves the table. At that time the guy gets up, without a word or a second thought, and drives away, leaving her in the restaurant alone. My friends and I watch this from a distance, and instantly we feel bad for her. We watch her come back to the table. He isn't there. She smiles at first, thinking it's a joke. She sits down and looks around. She thinks maybe he went to the bathroom too. Within seconds we watch her demeanor change from joy to sadness, as she slowly realizes what has happened. In my dream the voices fade into a nearly silent rumble, the movement of reality crawls to a slide, and I get up and walk over to her. She looks up at me with tears in her eyes expecting me to say something like - "Poetic justice," or "Serves you right. - and I would've been well within my rights to do so...but I didn't. I simply knelt down beside her, took her hand, and said, "I am so sorry."
The dream ended there, but it shook me for weeks. After not thinking about this girl for so long, years in fact, why did I have this dream that was so emotional and realistic? Did I still have unresolved feelings for her? I decided to eat at the Thai food restaurant to stew on these questions. In a strange twist of fate, I would have my opportunity to ask her, as she and I ended up on the phone together at Hastings. She asked me if I wanted to get together for a game a pool (an old tradition of ours), and I agreed. I thought this might be destiny, that having the dream and getting back in touch with her was all connected in some way. Turns out I was wrong. Even though life had been bad for her in the years after out parting, even though she had loved and lost, even though she had crashed and burned, she was still the same person, with the same hang ups, and any direction we took together would end badly. I decided to end the affair before it had a chance to start.
But this dream isn't what brought me back to the Thai restaurant today. The dream I had last night, however, is. Yes, she leaked her way into my dreams once again. This time she was in it for the duration. It was old times again, and we held hands the same way we had so many times before - threading the fingers, tracing the contours of each others fingers, caressing each others palms - and it was real. I felt her fingers touching my hand like a whisper, and all at once I was content with the world. I even woke up in a good mood before I realized who exactly I was dreaming about. So, I decided to come here today, to eat my soup, and to soul search once again, recollecting on a past that I know isn't possible now.
Who is this girl? How does she leak into my thoughts even when I don't think about her? When we were together I drew her a picture that I know is still on her wall, and I used to fantasize that she would sit at night and look at the picture and cry because she realized the mistake she made. But I got beyond that. I realized that the picture just blended into all the stuff on her wall, becoming one component in a mosaic tribute to her narcissism, a collection of nothing but things. The bottom line is that I don't think about this girl anymore, but I guess there's a part of me that still does, and I just want to know why that part keeps going back to her?
I'm almost finished eating. Once again I ordered too much and didn't quite finish my meal. It was delicious though. As I wait for the ticket, I wonder how I'm going to wrap this thing up. I don't want to go for the sappy cliche' ending that I'm thinking, but in a way this whole post has been one big cliche', and as a writer I can't resist it sometimes. People, there's one thing about love I've come to realize - love is not a mountain to climb, or an ocean to cross, or even a star to reach toward. No, love is a plate of food, a meal we need to finish. I didn't finish my meal that night with her, just as I didn't finish my meal today, as I sit here shoveling rice into my styrofoam box, but one day I'd like to.