The picture painted on the wall across from his table hadn’t changed one iota in the four years of absence. He could still remember everything as being the same. The old long post dated posters of those bygone vacation spots long founded upon the upon the Mexican Rivera that the rough rudeness of simply applied paint had replaced. The cocktail that the overly obeisant waiter had brought so readily to the table smelling faintly of cheap dishwashing liquid and mildew from the sponge that had held the salt for the glasses’ rim. That cheap chicken swimming on the bottom in the overly salted soup. That was the way that business was done in Mexico, and that’s the way that it was done here! “Mas Mucho Mas!”
She wasn’t here. Neither was his old man. Both dead now in two respects. One in the sense of an evaporation of devotion. The other from the exhaustion of his life. The sunlight shone down into the open bay window none the less in a manner that bespoke the guaranty of eternity. A sense of balance that could be counted on from time to time to soothe one into believing the same about oneself. The parade of people sauntering by from either direction, stage right or left, to the melodious massage of the house’s ‘canciones’ coming in categories of pleasantly pleasing to disturbingly bizarre. All in reminder that any complacency about self was no longer an option. Pondering the vacant sidewalk he scavenged a couple of chips from the basket to scrape the plate free of the latent failings of his recently consumed taco. An errant glance downward catching an unexpected tremor in his hand for his trouble. This dark cloud momentarily tarnishing the notion of absolute timelessness in this flawed culinary paradise. A young passionate Hispanic male voice crooned on, slowly fading unwillingly to bring his romantic scenario to a finite conclusion. Everything pulsed and ached within his breast and his head.
The hourglass was emptying slowly threatening an ultimate conclusion. A slender young woman in a form fitting dress tip-toed by looking for something higher up on the second floor, aware and apparent of the leveling of unwanted attention. Strange how the trim young curves of women held unending sway over his male curiosity. Even now at his advanced age. Far past the facility to act with any fulfill-able intention his enthusiasm seemed over renewed by a new passing peculiarity. An unkempt ragamuffin ensconced in tiny pinholes in ragged pants below the wrinkles of an un-ironed shirt setting him below the classification of a rapidly aging scarecrow. An old bird no longer due even a passing glance beyond some sharp rebuke or combative glare in return for a casual instant of his attention. “Corazón, Corazón”, droned on the chorus from some unseen speaker far above. When the Spanish sang, they sometimes cried, not from sadness but from passion. He turned his attention from the chaos of his plate to see a tough looking hombre out the open window. The man’s facial expression fully inverted from the horseshoe curve of a smile to a perpetual business-like frown. Two young women took the opportunity to bustle in the dining room from the other direction. Their manner strong loud and confident and in keeping with the modern day variety of ‘Femme Majoris’ that confidently held that their presence alone was justified in sucking all the oxygen out of the room. He judiciously feigned ignorance of their presence preferring to casually focus his attention scrupulously in every other direction but their own as it was plain that any simple kindness or courtesy would be rebuffed.
His incremental imbibe of the sugary alcoholic beverage before him now held him to task. It’s resultant effect no longer providing the same sense of pleasant escape as its antecedents might have many decades previous in youth. The waiter was now across at the table before the two newly arrived young sirens working them expertly as might be expected in the wily persuasive techniques of some carnival sharper or Las Vegas impresario. Playing upon their youth and dining inexperience to ferret out a larger than expected food order and ensuring its accompany with a strong suit of potent liquid house specialties. Maybe it was his own version of what was being ordered but his temples began to throb and his breastbone to ache. The sharp eyed caramel goddess across the way began to take on a familiarity that escaped him. Some forties femme fatale? Not Rita Hayworth or Gloria Grahame. Elusive, but like the Sun unadvised to study beyond more than a short peek. The thick asphalt of an overly self-satisfied expression proclaiming righteous disdain but no doubt overlaying the rough gravel of insecurity and self-doubt expected of the overly sheltered young. Her companion with back turned towards him, enigmatic in black crepe clothing. The only item remarkable in terms of revealing any hint of personality bend a heart shaped brass lock dangling upon the outside front of her bow strung strap black leather purse dangling on the back of the chair beside her. The battle of wills with the wiley waiter was now fully involved in a second rematch, his insistence eventually winning over their dubious confidence and fully taking the field.
Who was this famous actress that this undiscovered coffee colored Amazon bombshell had the genetic good fortune to resemble? Film Noir, B-movie, Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity, Patricia Neal, Fountainhead, Jane Russell, Outlaw? His potted consciousness batted about the relative insolubility of those almost mentally graspable features. When she had first taken her seat, midriff momentarily exposed to view, he was startled at what a patchwork of elegance and the sensuality of the sheer size that she embodied. Such a strange home for such enigmatically indefinable elegantly penetrating eyes? Not Lauren Bacall in her better days, or Veronica Lake with that cool slow burn that set men so quickly alight like unfulfilled cigarette paper. It struck him that so innocuous had been the elusive source of his attempted comparison that a Warner Bros. cartoon had been struck and he was seeing her ‘doppelganger’ stereo-optically in both silver gelatin recorded fact and artfully exaggerated caricature. He turned his face away and let his obsession ebb. The young women’s conversation played on non-stop over the Muzak of the ‘cancione’s’ Karaoke. No it WAS Patricia Neal, he thought. That was the closest he could come up with.
The waiter trundled over with two tiny white bowls rattling upon ceramic plates, one in each hand. Having earlier choked down the concoction, the older man poised his attention on the table before him in preparation to synchronized the ascent of his eyes with the instant after their first sip to catch their reactions to its taste. The foreknowledge of that saline brackishness inherent in the product insured in his mind that both of the ‘damas de alta’ would subsequently be caught in a frown or a whispered discontent. Outside the unexpected appearance of a particularly ungainly looking woman whose over corpulent youth seemed to cascade into an abundantly sloppy happy version of femininity swung by tightly locked in an all encompassing embrace of a more conventionally handsome young man. The second round of “Bonita” rang out from the hidden speakers above. Magically the conversation of the two young women sitting at the table across, seemingly oblivious, took up the topic of physically eligible young men as if not a beat had been missed from the transition of other subjects now too hazy to recall.
For an instant he had forgotten that uncomfortable little nagging knife point stuck deeper more dully into his chest just to the side of his heart. Unfortunately, not love or reawakened passion but the unwelcome harbinger of impending death. The girls chattered on in endless pursuit of the contrivance of further trivialities fully obliviousness within the fishbowl consciousness of their youth. He was dying the slow death of an inescapable fatal knowledge that his own glimpses would soon become ever more fleeting as those unseen grains of sand counting out the remainder of his existence were becoming fewer in number. That youthful goddess across from him now engaged with I-Phone to one ear and overstuffed taco caught in mouth, a lingering vision of beautifully applied carelessness of manner.