There was a sweet, young couple at the table in the corner. It was the most dimly-lit space in the otherwise quite-bright-for-a-restaurant pizzeria. He looked like the stereotypical computer-geek from teen Hollywood movies, she was young and pretty. They shared a chocolate brownie for pudding and left holding hands.
I needed to go to the restaurant, one I’ve driven past on my way home from work for nearly 14 years but never been in. I had a voucher you see, that needed using and a disposition that’d make a bipolar sufferer off their meds look like a kitten. That’s why I needed it. The cling wrap is too tight, I needed out. G, too, was wound tight as elastic inside a golf ball. An old family-friendly place that smelt like pizza ovens was a good choice. It catapulted me back to a childhood place and wrapped me in its warm flour-dusted embrace.
All around us were families, each seemed to me to have an anomaly of some sort. The family with grown-up children next to us had a mother who is obviously going through chemo, her hair almost gone. They were talking and laughing and shared a salad to start. When their pizzas arrived the table was suddenly too small as they shared those too.
Next to them, another family – mom, dad, teenage daughter and boyfriend and much younger, very pretty blonde princess daughter in a spangley outfit more suited to a burlesque club. The parents were huge, their children tiny. They, too, were deeply engaged in conversation and handed phones around to show photos, Facebook statuses, heaven-knows-what. The princess threw her head to the table when they didn’t listen to her story.
Behind us two fresh young boys (oh, I sound old… they were in their early 20’s) sat with an older wealthy-looking lady, possibly one of their mother’s, talking passionately about music. We decided they were hoping she’d fund their band. They reminded me of various boys I went out with in my university days.
There was an old-fashioned carpet on the floor in deep, rich colours, highly patterned. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much red wine, how many pizza crumbs and olive bits and parmesan sprinklings were crunched into those patterns. How many family dramas, delighted celebrations, declarations of love and declarations of unlove... just stories of people's lives does that carpet have woven into it? We drank wine, ate pizza, spoke of plans to see things, get out of the city, breathe. The feeling of suffocation is just there making us both tetchy and short-tempered and that makes me anxious, a gnawing in my stomach that something in my life needs to break open.
I’ll plan it slowly though, tentatively. Start with a night, look to see not just to look, breathe it in, smell the smells, feel the wind, writewritewrite. Turn it into something that’ll keep me. Something that’ll keep me happily, most importantly.