The chill in the air smells like the last time I fell in love.
Knitted woolen leg warmers donned. Chestnut brown and unraveling from overuse.
My sister gave me three pairs, last year.
“You want, like, Flash Dance legwarmers for your birthday?” she asked.
“Yeah, I am standing on my toes these days.”
An hour ’til I walk to the restaurant.An hour of coffee, words, and nicotine.
I will pluck my heavy comforter (trans. duvet) from storage after work.
I seat a one top.
Coffee?: I ask
I insist on it: he says.
We have that in common.
No cream. Bring white sugar if you have it: he says.
White sugar?: I think.
Kat, do we have white sugar already on the table?: I ask, unsure what white sugar means.
Bleached sugar, you mean?: she asks.
Smiling, I say: dunno. He wants white sugar. Those words.
Well, we have raw sugar, nutrisweet, sweat n’ low, and truevia in packets on the tables. We have Splenda packets here, just in case. Brown sugar for breakfast…:
The dishwasher (who provided his own sobriquet [call me MC BlackCoffee: he told me, when I first started] ) interrupts her.
He wants this: he says, holding a shaker the size of two coffee cups stacked on top of each other.
What kind of sugar do you call this: I ask him.
The good kind: he says.
We need to reevaluate your nickname. Sugared coffee is not black coffee: I tease.
Don’t change the color, does it?: he nods, smiling.
Server T. touches my shoulder: the guy at table six has a book for you.
Oh, word. I was hoping he would make good: I say.
How do you know him? He wasn’t sure if you were the right person. Plus, you just seated him.: he says confused and a bit irritated I had let one guy sit at his four top.
I don’t know him. I didn’t recognize him: I reply.
He shrugs. I smile.
Two nights ago, I discovered this server knew philosophy as well as, if not better than, me. And, he discovered a coworker that could keep up with him. We had discussed the very book table six has brought me. He seemed happy.
I met table six when he came in for breakfast a few days before. I noticed him reading a Martin Gardner book.
I dig that guy: I say.
This seventyish year old man looked up at me. I recall one eye not opening all the way, although both eyes appear open today.
I found Hofstadter, Penrose, and Feynman through him: I say.
He stared at me.
He wants to be left alone: I think.
I walk away, after offering: I’ll leave you to enjoy.
As he left, he stopped by my hostess post and asked: how did someone your age find out about these guys.
Well, I was ten years younger in Alabama selling collegiate clothing in a boutique and I got very bored.
I go up to table six. He has brought me his second copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, thoughtfully wrapped in plastic as it rains heavy. This was a gateway book for me and I lost my copy during my move from AL to WA. I am thrilled a copy has found it’s way back to me.
What kind of restaurant is this? You and my server is a philosophy graduate.: he says, looking quite serious.
One that is open to hiring ex-academic flaneurs: I joke.
I have him sign and date the book.
By the way, your server is also a third degree black belt: I mention.
Server T says: Don’t you think it’s funny we were just talking about that book the other night?
Ha, I am surprisingly unsurprised. Things like this happen a lot to people like us, don’t you think?: I respond.
Well, I think there would be some observer bias in such a thought: he says, quite rightly.
But, observer bias is unavoidable by definition because we are observers at every moment. What are your thoughts on metaphysics?: I push him.
I try to avoid metaphysics. Too messy.: he says, walking away.
Yeah, yeah. That’s what all you philosophers say these days. Too messy and too close to mysticism: I call out as much to myself as to him.