Another Slice of Midtown

by Diana Dawson Plattner

Sitting in the bistro across the street, at a small table in front of the window, where a ruddy sunset is going on. Each of the two adjacent patios is crowded: black young and gay next door at Willy’s; slightly older, much whiter, and about 50-50 hetero to homo over here. Two kids in tight shirts wander over from Willy’s and settle in chairs just outside the door. They’re drinking margaritas from plastic cups. Much drunken conversation at the bar about the one kid’s pants, which even in the land of low-hanging pants are impressive, riding at upper-mid thigh, his brown legs visible below the blinding leg bands of his tighty-whiteys.

A waiter backs through the door with a full tray and one of the glasses drops on the patio. It goes off like a bomb and one of the kids knocks his chair over. A dog rockets under a table and nearly upends it, and the owner comes out from behind the bar. He tells the kids from Willy’s, they want to sit here, they have to order here. Then he helps clean up the glass. Everything settles back down, only now there’s a shard of glass in the pot of oregano just outside the window. The shard is curved, like a leaf or a boat.

A quarrel at the bar about who offended whom: a few minutes ago there was a joke about whether heteros should live in Midtown, and a reply about paying taxes, and ten minutes later someone is offended. Two women at opposite ends of the bar lean out around the argument and discuss whether anyone, anywhere, should ever eat liver and onions. On one TV screen above the bar, the Red Sox are playing the Orioles, with much standing around and open-mouthed cud-chewing. On the smaller TV in the corner, Bart Simpson is being shaken upside down by Homer, while Lisa shuffles a deck of cards in front of a man in a smoking jacket who might be Hugh Heffner, or maybe Ricky Jay. A third TV, by the kitchen, is showing European football.

A woman sticks her head in from the patio and announces the po-po’s here. There’s a cry of merriment. Speculation as to why someone called the cops: someone had his pants down, there was a fight. The woman in the doorway says there was an incident last weekend (knowing looks, fingers sketching quotes around the word “incident”).

Gloamy on the patio now. A short, heavy Mexican man in a ball cap angles between chair-backs and shoulders, lighting the candles on the tables with an electric match.

The controversy over the pants is long gone. A tall woman with a coat-rack build and permed hair sips golden liquid from a shot glass and peruses the wine list. Her friend, also a woman, a good bit younger, is talking about dating. “I’m expecting to be impressed. I’m expecting chocolates and roses. I’m expecting to be complimented.” Her older companion looks at her over the top of the menu. “Just kidding.”

Yankees vs. Sox: aught to aught.

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