restaurant table

A man and a woman walk into a b… no, not a bar… a busy restaurant.

Dressed nicely, smelling lightly delicious like apple blossoms and musk, they’ve prepared themselves for an evening full of promise, of hopeful enjoyment.

Let’s let the evening begin.

When, in my summer seasonal job as a bartender in a local Greek restaurant I pour a glass of Pinot Gris, a shot of Ouzo, or mix up a chilly Pineapple-Coconut Mojito, I feel an inner joy, a sense of accomplishment. A halo of sunshine, a curve of multi-hued rainbow arches over me like a good friend’s hug.

Isn’t life simple sometimes when that’s all it takes to bake a good sensation inside?

I’m not the world’s greatest bartender (yet!), but I’m learning and improving my craft with each shift I work.

And sometimes, even more enjoyable than pouring drinks is the opportunity for people watching.

Bartending is almost like sitting in an airport lounge waiting for your flight and gazing around at all the interesting faces, the multitude of individual stories scattered across a night sky like glittering constellations.

As the hours pass by, my feet grow fatigued and sore but I smile, watching the clock’s evolutionary force as the clock ticks the minutes past and fuzzy alcoholic chemicals begin dancing waltzes inside peoples’ heads.

Just as music enchants the brain, so too can alcohol.

The young man and woman are huddled, just to my left, at a small table in the corner, next to large glass doors abutting the enclosed outdoor patio filled with luscious clay-potted plants overflowing with aromatic mint and basil.

She nervously fiddles with the little gold ring on her thumb while waiting for a Caesar and the Dirty Martini that I’m preparing for them; his hands stay formally perched on his lap.

Before the beverages arrive at their table, he sneaks little peeks her way, reservedly drinking in her pretty face. Her softly tanned legs, bare from mid-thigh downwards, rest comfortably crossed behind the leg of her chair.

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Glancing somewhat shyly at each other across the white linen-topped table – she poised slightly back in her seat, him vaguely leaning forward – they work to build a conversation.

Though there is no physical contact – none – there is a hint, maybe just a whiff, of comfort in the air that suggests to me a previous encounter, perhaps a second date signal of encouragement.

Bear with me, it’s my blog writer’s game to play detective and sniff out the back story. I should have worn my camouflage lampshade hat from a bad party years ago.

I’m able to snoop and catch a profile glimpse of them every few minutes while I pop caps off Budweisers and Coronas and notice the subtle shifts in amorosity as she sips at her vodka-laced Caesar, and a gin injection settles over him like a warm fog cloud.

Looking about the crowded restaurant, surveying the cosmos as patrons sip their fermented Cosmos, it comes as no surprise that stories on people’s faces change as the sun slinks away behind the Okanagan Valley hills and the warm glow of candlelight gently suffuses their features.

Though I’m not imbibing any of the alcoholic elixirs, I absorb the glow of warmth around me. My intoxication rises with the patrons’.

The couple’s meals are placed on the table and they both lean in with amiable smiles, absorbing the heady scent of the warm tomatoes, the spicy cinnamon, the feta and oregano wafting upwards, an immersion of sensuous scents.

Grinning, he lifts his glass towards her. Before forking a mouthful of dinner, they kiss the rims of their glasses in a quiet ting, sipping as an anticipatory glint of shimmer emerges in their eyes like a ray of moonlight reflecting dreamily on the lake.

What is it about an alcoholic drink that soothes and elevates an occasion? Why those familiar feelings of release and freedom that alcohol produces and why do we tend to think very little of our surrounds, yet discover great close focus on the object of our attention, or affection?

I know this liquid elixir I pour is a double-edged sword of pleasure/poison. But while I’m here mixing drinks I can only think on the positive spinoffs of light inebriation.

From the corner of my eye, I see the man nodding his head, yes, to his server to bring a second set of drinks.

Caesars and Martinis are simple concoctions for me to make.

I feel like a little kid free on the playground mixing up mud pies. I’m drawn to the blend of green lime and red clamato juice, olives speared in a sexy sloped martini glass.

After a nip of icy martini, he slips the final bite of chicken souvlaki left on his plate into his mouth, while her dish sits still half-filled with moussaka and tomatoes and cucumbers. Her fork gently massages the plate but rarely returns to her lips.

One hand of each is delicately interlaced with the other’s and I can see now that their legs are rubbed gently together beneath the table. A rhythmic nudge of her blue-painted toenail gently kneads the back of his calf.

While the light in the room has grown dimmer, I can see the sweet young lady’s apple cheeks are warm and rosy in a pre-coital flush. They lean forward across the table into the breathing zone of the other, talking in soft smiles and hushed tones.

A Day in the Park

I feel a rising stream of personal… embarrassment… as if I’m peering through a hole in the wall into an intimate boudoir painting just waiting for the drift of clothing like romantic snowflakes floating slowly to the ground.

A short while later they rise to leave.

The young man and woman walk slowly, arm in arm, out of the restaurant and… well… I won’t take you any further along this twilight road where the destination clearly seems to be set.

The evening’s promise appears near fulfillment.

With a touch of disappointment, this little voyeuristic story ends for me, and I return to the focus of MY evening, pouring drinks.

As my bartending shift ends, I feel my skill at making drinks for people to enjoy is getting better and stronger… I’m a better “drink chef” now than I was just a year ago.

Without the young couple’s knowing, I’ve filled my tiny role of bartender… and… love matchmaker… fairy godfather… a Fiddler on The Roof Yentl.

I feel good. That’s progress.

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