When she entered into the bar, she snuggled in a dark brown wool coat, with messy hair disheveled by the early spring wind and dark circles under the deep dark brown eyes. It was common, and sometimes tiresome, to see the tourists all over the world in this riverside town. I would not complain too much as at least now I could see their unmasked faces. Still, East Asian faces have been uncommon since 2020.
Hello, can I have one order of crisps and one glass of sangria? She asked. That pair of dark brown eyes were still searching on the Menu.
This American accent was not uncommon. I was used to the American tourists speaking English without even asking if I spoke English or not. But still, it was slightly annoying.
Sure, what else? Said I. She must have wanted to order French fries in a chilly afternoon like this. But I had no intention to correct that.
Hum, can I also have the octopus bite? Said she.
Not bad. She did have a taste. Not like other Americans. They usually would not want to try anything bizarre, which was only bizarre to them.
Then she sat down by the bar, eyes searching and wandering. The bar was usually empty at this time of the day. Most people already had lunch and it was too early for dinner. She might have just arrived, by train or by flight. In a touristy town, my bar was not in the perfect spot along the river to get most businesses, but one block away from the river left me a tiny gap to breath.
On the projector screen at the end of the corridor was a tennis match, Djokovic vs. someone. Her wandering eyes finally found the screen. After a glance, those eyes wandered aimlessly again. I was a little proud when she was staring at the green wall I painted. Green brings freshness, vitality, and maybe hope—something I craved desperately.
What is the yellow thing in the second jar? Her finger pointed at the glass jar to the very end, next to the similar jar with olives on the far right.
Obviously she could recognize other two jars on the left with the cinnamon sticks – which was not surprising- and the cloves, a little impressive. It was rather surprising that a middle class woman (maybe single and well-off based on her delicate coat and expensive purse) might spend a good amount of time to cook. Maybe she had a rich husband (No she did not have a ring) or a rich family. She could also be that kind of people – devoting all her soul to a meaningless job and sometimes had spare heart to savor something outside of money, success and ambition. Did she ever truly love anyone? Did she like men, or women? Was she in love now? The fact that she was alone cleared my last doubt.
It is yellow split pea, kind of pea. Well actually those have skins. I can give you some to try later.
Her lips upturned with an unexpected pleasure – a pleasure I would call it innocent or naive. Not in an erotic way that was often seen in the Asian pornographies. Rather it was something one could only possess before thinking about some serious topics, death, for example. It was not too rare either, but quite a long time since the last time I saw such.
The crisps were ready and presented in front of her. I would not deny secretly wishing to see some disappointment on her face. But this did not happen, to my surprise. She was still delightful after tasting the dry, unevenly fried chips. She must be starving.
I held my unusual impulse to ask her where she was from and all the small talks most Americans liked to have. She seemed a bit lost, even though her wandering eyes were more curious than searching for something. She did not watch the game. She did not look at her phone either. Her fingers were tapping the glass and her legs kept crossing and uncrossing. She did not look at the window, meaning she did not wait for someone to come or expect something to happen. I noticed that her vacillating eyes subconsciously avoided mine, and sensed something profound behind them. Such undesirable dismay was not too unusual these days. She was alone, wasn’t she? I frowned a little when I was cutting the pineapple.
The sauce is awesome. What’s in it?
Much as I hated the word ‘awesome’, as it implied some kind of unrealistic optimism, I found it less annoying. The cliche that everything we took for granted could light someone else’s day up cheaply fulfilled me. Oh boy, sometimes we all need it. It could be from some kind of infatuation which I absolutely would not deny at this moment.
It is mayonnaise with some garlic.
I took my time cutting the octopus, preparing the sauce, toasted a slice of baguette and finally made a small piece of octopus bite. The green sauce saturated the small slice of the light yellow baguette with some small pieces of white octopus on top. I was not sure if it would be enough food for her as she was already half way of her sangria. I put a little more alcohol in her drink. That extra liquid reddened her cheek like a sakura. Was she a Japanese? I could not tell. It did not matter.
Octopus bite was ready too and quickly went into her stomach, letting out exaggerated nodding and satisfied moaning.
Ah sorry, I forgot to give you the peas. On the contrary, I did not forget at all – I waited intentionally until she finished her octopus bite, just wanted to see if she was actually eager to try it.
Oh please! I was looking forward to it. The same pleasure lit up her pink face.
I took out some peas from the jar and put them into a small plate. Adding some salt and a tiny bit of vinegar, the peas would turn out to be the most delicious snacks. I supposed she would like them.
Let me teach you how to eat it. Look, first take a bite on the top, the skin will open up. Then bite into the pea and take the whole body out of the skin. See?
The most enjoyable moment came and passed instantly. Seeing the light from her dark brown eyes, I could show her my entire world the same way as I just did how to eat the peas.
Now I did not wish to see her struggling eating the peas. She did not disappoint me either. Elegantly and skillfully, she took her first pea body out easily with the whole skin intact. Good job lady. Must be some oriental magics – oh I should not have thought this way. She was not mysterious, rather approachable, very relatable to some degree. Obviously I did not know anything about women, menstruation, pregnancy, being penetrated or abused – only a little observation of my mother, my grand-mothers and other females in my life. Some stayed. Some left, permanently.
Now I did feel a little guilty to pour her extra alcohol. And give her peas late.
I could eat this the whole afternoon. She took another bite and chewed on it. She was no doubt talking to me, while her eyes were looking down the corridor, somewhere in the distance.
Her hand was warm and soft. Her mouth too. I could have poured more sangria to fill up her glass and tasted her lips before she could start to drink. I would bite gently. Just a nibble. She should taste like a citron. Not too ripe but a little sour. With the warm sun in the late afternoon, a citron was the perfect appetizer into the long night. It could be the last night, or it could be the beginning of an everlasting night.
After finishing the last sip, she asked for the check and left a generous tip – again an American thing which I did not hate at all. Then she rose, snuggled herself again in that coat.
Have a safe trip.
I did not know why I said safe trip. Maybe she was alone and a little drunk – thanks to my mischief. I found myself uncontrollably worrying about her.
But what else can I do? The whole rendez-vous was not romantic. At least not right now as I was seeing her off.
Thanks. Smiled she. Left she.
While clearing her table, I put one of the pea skins she spit out into my mouth and slowly savored it. It tasted nothing like an unripe citron in the early spring. It was rubbery, acid, and bitter.