We Will Always Have Shrimp Tempura
My boyfriend (now husband) and I were treating ourselves to our favorite restaurant. The shrimp tempura was divine – a beautiful sweet/spicy kick, a crisp crunch. While debating over one order or two, my eyes lifted, and she appeared.
Her chocolate hair was tucked in a bun. Her dark eyes outlined by heavy, black framed glasses. The smooth delivery of the specials only added to her Jenna Lyons aura. She made a joke during our drink order. I don’t remember the joke, but it had a dash of corny. I laughed (a genuine laugh) and thought I must bank it for future use (that worked out well).
With each refill of tap water, a side of conversation ensued. We exchanged our favorite local spots: the spacious Trader Joe’s and the shop, Earth & State, whose tag line we loved, “Pottery, crafts & cool stuff from Earth.” There was a compliment about my top. I praised her for pulling off thick glasses with ease. I didn’t mind her interruption during our dinner; it was a chance to uncover more similarities.
I had strong female friendships, but no one lived down the street. I couldn’t meet Tara at the bar midweek to strategize our careers. I couldn’t walk with Ann and chat about if I had found “the one” (spoiler alert, I did). We could be friends linked by residency who shared these wonderful, self-preservation activities.
I felt the bud of a friendship. I shared my vision with Ben, “We seem like we could be good friends!” Ben flashed a half smile and downturned eyes (translation - a pity look), reminding me it was her job to make us feel comfortable. I rebuffed with our common ground – our preference of whiskey, cheesy jokes and the sneaking in of style even in mundane, professional attire. Ben, one never to put down my hopes, encouraged me to ask for her number.
As we rose from our table, I saw her heading upstairs. Ben headed to the lobby giving me a good luck nod. As I ascended the stairs, a wave of nerves struck. How do I ask her out on a friend date? Should I reach out my hand to shake? Why would I do that, we’ve already met! Do I tap her on the back or lightly touch her shoulder? Which one would evoke I am fun person? These questions blurred in my head like a running slot machine. I reached the top floor. I didn’t have a plan. She turned around.
Our eyes did not meet. She looked to the ground; a full tray of dirty dishes in her hands. She bent forward allowing her lower back to push the kitchen door. All at once, she disappeared into the steam.
I felt foolish. I strained my eyes and neck as if looking for the bathroom. I retraced my steps to the stairs. We never crossed paths again. Ben and I eventually moved. I think about the friend who got away from time to time. Every bite of shrimp tempura is accompanied with the familiarity of a transient female connection.
Photo by Jenn Ott