Yeah, we fancy like Applebee’s on a date night
Got that Bourbon Street steak with the Oreo shake
Get some whipped cream on the top too
Two straws, one check, girl, I got you
Bougie like Natty in the styrofoam
Squeak-squeakin’ in the truck bed all the way home
Some Alabama-jamma, she my Dixieland delight
Ayy, that’s how we do, how we do, fancy like
“Something from the chef,” the waiter said in a thick French accent. “Cold asparagus soup served in a hen’s egg. Please enjoy.”
Another waiter set down a plate with a small terracotta flower pot with an eggshell. A small straw extended out the top of the shell which was perfectly cut.
“Wow,” she said. “That’s cute.”
“It’s an amuse-bouche,” he said. “It’s supposed to tease and tantalize.”
“It sure is a tease,” she said. “It’s like a spoonful of soup.” She sucked the contents of the egg all at once and it made a slurping sound.
He shook his head.
“What?” she protested. She was wearing a velvety, blue dress, with her hair up as usual but with small pearl earrings that had belonged to her grandmother, her dad’s mom. She hated dressing up. But she did it for him. For the fancy place.
“Just take it easy,” he said.
“Alright,” she said with a sigh. “I said we wouldn’t fight. Although it’s fascinating to hear you speak French.” She laughed. He gritted his teeth.
“Yes,” he said. “French. I prefer the food to the language.”
The waiter returned. They each had a drink they ordered at the bar that followed them to the table. His was a martini. Hers was a glass of sparkling rosé.
“I think we’ll have the pre fixe,” he said.
“Very good, sir,” the waiter said. “Have you had a chance to consider wine?”
“Yes,” he said, pointing to selection on a page in a leather-bound book.”
“The Pomerol, sir?” he confirmed. “Yes. Bold, is it?”
The waiter returned a wan smile.
“Of course, sir.”
“And a glass of white with the sweetbreads. Select something for us.”
“Absolutely, a Cave de Lugny Les Charmes,” the waiter enthused. “It is 100 percent Chardonnay from Burgundy.”
“Hmmm,” he said looking up at the elaborate tent like ceiling of the Fleur de Lis restaurant. “Well, generally I don’t like Chardonnay, but we’ll try it.”
“If you’re not happy with it,” the waiter started.
“No, no,” he said. “I trust you.”
She giggled throughout his effort to look sophisticated. Especially when he pointed to the wine list rather than saying the name of the wine.
“Think of how impressed they’d be if you ordered in French,” she teased.
“You’re never going to let it go, are you?” he said furrowing his brow as he looked over the centerpiece into her green eyes where the light of the candle danced comfortably, as if the reflection had found its true home.
And why hadn’t he realized how his failure to pass that fucking French exam in graduate school would make his efforts to impress her in one of the best French restaurants ever futile. In fact, it would allow her to gain control.
She laughed her girlish but annoying laugh.
The waiter arrived with the white wine and the first course, sweetbreads. He described the dish and her eyes got wide and she looked down at her plate.
When the waiter left, she leaned forward and whispered, “What the heck is this?”
“Sweetbreads, honey,” he said. He looked at an anxious older couple next to them. He whispered back, “The thyroid. Glands. Don’t worry. They’re delicious.”
She sat back in her chair.
“I thought it was like a sweet bread,” she said more loudly. “Glands. We used to feed this stuff to the pigs.”
“Jesus Christ,” he said. “Can I not take you anywhere.” He glanced over at the couple and smiled.
“I’m sorry but where I come from,” she began.
“Listen,” he said sternly. “This is not a meeting of the 4H club. Just fucking try it, ok.”
“Fine,” she picked up a piece of the breaded delicacy with her fingers and bit into it. Chewed. Swallowed. Put it down. Then she gulped down the glass of wine. “That’s gross. I’m not eating it.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” he said.
She started looking around for the waiter. He caught her eye and came toward the table.
“No, no, no,” he said with alarm.
She started speaking in French. His eyes got wider and wider. They darted back and forth between her lips and the waiter’s. The waiter was laughing. She was laughing. He couldn’t make out what they were saying to each other, but she was winning him over. The waiter was tickled she spoke such perfect French.
At one point she looked over and pointed at him and made a face. The waiter laughed too hard.
“Ok! That’s it!” he shouted. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
“Oh, sir,” the waiter said. “Your companion is marvelous. I believe we can prepare something you will love.”
“Well, yes,” he stammered. “I mean what…”
“Don’t worry honey,” she said laughing. “I’ve taken care of it. Enjoy your wine.”
He sank bank into his chair and put his napkin over his face. She and the waiter kept talking enthusiastically. The old couple next to them just stopped eating, forks in hand and looked over at their table. Even through the napkin, he could feel their disapproval.
Then he heard her say.
“Donde esta los Mexicanos?”
He pulled the napkin off his face in time to see the waiter extend his arm and she took it and they started walking toward the kitchen.
“Are you going to fucking organize them or something?” he said.
She smiled as she walked off and blew him a kiss
“Maybe,” she mouthed silently.
“Fuck,” he said.
The couple kept eating but glanced over at him.
“She’s from Lebanon,” he said. “Lebanon, Kansas. You know. Kansas.” He grimaced, shrugged, and threw up his hands. They just looked away.
“Kansas,” he muttered under his breath. Then he downed the martini and the glass of white.
By the time they returned, arm in arm, he’d had an Amontillado, a Madeira, and was working on a cocktail called Tombé du Ciel.
“Hey,” he said to the waiter when he ordered the cocktail. “Is this named in honor of Charles Trenet. Wait. Don’t answer. I think it is. Bring me that.”
While he waited, he hummed the tune of the song to himself, satisfied and sure that she didn’t know anything about Charles Trenet. Or Lully. Or Tati. Or Clouseau. Clouseau. That made him laugh. He was getting drunk.
“Does your dog bite,” he asked the couple next to him in a fake French accent as they finished their final items. “I’m sorry about all this. You know. Kansas.”
Now she sat down, and seconds passed before two waiters cleared the table and set a rotisserie chicken between them accompanied by mashed potatoes, corn, and escargot.
“I got those for you,” she said earnestly pointing at the snails, and walked around the table and kissed him. Then she laughed. The couple was gone.
“You know,” he said. “We could have just gone to fucking Kenny Rogers.”
“I love Kenny Rogers,” she said. “Sing it for me.”
“A warm summers evening,” he said haltingly. “On a train bound for nowhere.”
“C’mon,” she said. “Stop being such a stick in the mud. Everyone in the back knows you. They remember you. They even like you. And they did this special for us.”
The waiter returned with a cart with a bottle and a decanter. He uncorked the bottle, lit a candle, poured a bit into two glasses. He took one and handed the other one over.
“Sir,” he said. “Please taste with me.”
The wine tasted like it was poured from a leather bag that had been soaked in cherries.
“God, that’s good,” he said.
The waiter winked at him.
“It gets better.”
He decanted the wine by the light of the candle.
“I don’t think this is what I ordered,” he said as the waiter filled their glasses.
“No, no,” he said. “This is much better. It’s for you and Madame. From us.”
He looked over at her and smiled.
“You’re fucking something else,” he said. “Are we in a union shop now?”
“Don’t be silly,” she said. “That happens later.”
By now the waiter had revealed a tall can of Bud Light.
“A glass, Madam,” he asked.
“No, no,” she said laughing. “Just set it down.”
“Oh my God,” he said.
After dinner, they walked down Sutter holding hands, laughing.
“Jesus Christ,” he said as they stepped in front of a building with two parking spots. There was country music playing from speakers somewhere.
“Isn’t that funny,” she said. “They play this to keep the homeless away.”
“But for you and I it’s like moths to the flame.”
Alan Jackson’s Livin’on Love started playing.
“Let’s dance,” he said.
As they improvised a two-step, shuffling across the white lines of the lot, they whispered back and forth.
“You’re getting to be a better dancer,” she said.
“I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life,” he said. “But this has been the best honeymoon ever. Even with you trying to ruin it.”
“Stop. Were you more embarrassed than when your pants fell down in front of the cheerleaders at football practice?”
“Tonight was a billion times more embarrassing. A trillion.”
“Just be yourself,” she said.
“What if there is no self?” he said. “The source of all suffering is that we think we have one.”
“Well,” she said. “If there is no self, there’s nothing to get embarrassed.”
“But Ananda,” he whispered to her. “Perhaps embarrassment is enlightenment.”
“Well, then I guess you achieved nirvana.”
“I guess I have,” he said. “Alan Watts might say…”
“Shhh,” she whispered and put her finger on his lips. “Are you gonna kiss me or not?”