I’ve met the owner, Marco a couple of times. Sometimes I come here after practice to grab a burrito and some take-out for the girls. But when I parked in the parking lot behind the restaurant today, I had something on my mind besides Mexican food. Marco was right there outside, sitting on a plastic tub with a couple other guys who were standing there in long white aprons. He was smoking a cigarette and put it out as I walked up…as if I had busted him doing something bad. I didn’t give a shit, its not like cigarettes will mess up a burrito. Anyway, I wasn’t sure if he recognized me or not. He should. I’m pretty much a local celebrity around here. But I figured if I launched into a personal conversation with him that he might realize we had a little comrodory between us and perhaps grant my odd request.
“How are you doing man?” he said, holding out his hand. I shook it and nodded at the other two guys who were looking at me suspiciously. I realized I must look nervous and so I just started talking…rambling…not holding back.
“You’ve met Odette before” I said to Marco.
He looked confused, then his eyes seemed to light up a bit and he said, “Ahh yes…the swan.”
“I’ve got something intense going on.” I said, determined to make an impression, to say shit he couldn’t ignore. All three looked at me with piercing eyes. I stammered, “I couldn’t take a cold shower or sleep it off.” I had their attention. I looked at the ground to pause for a dramatic moment. I looked up at Marco and said, “I tried to run from the pain but my legs couldn’t sprint fast enough.” Marco’s eyes seem to widen. “Odette has decided to split us up and there is nothing I can do about it.”
“What are you talking about man?” Marco said.
“When she told me she wanted some time apart, at first I thought it was maybe an OK idea. I mean, we were heading out on tour. She had been pissing me off recently and now I could get some distance from that…smoke some weed, drink like a teenager, bang a few girls.” Marco put another cigarette in his mouth and lit it. He blew out the smoke and nodded at me.
“But I’ve already done that man. I’m not a kid anymore. Ten years ago I was excited to be out of my parent’s imitation Frank Lloyd Wright Mc-Mansion. But I’m a man now, a husband, a father. Damn it. I didn’t want to split up but this was Odette’s idea and she always gets what she wants.” Marco motioned to another white tub and then he turned it upside down for me. I sat down on it. He offered me a cigarette but I shook my head.
I said, “So I sat there in my living room last night, listening to her make plans to take our kid to the beach for a month, and her not so whispered phone calls to the punk who started it all. And here I was trying to believe that this was all for the best.”
“Who is this punk?” Marco said and tapped his cigarette so the ashes blew past me.
“It doesn’t matter anymore” I said, realizing if I explained that…it wouldn’t help what I was going to be asking of Marco. “I wasn’t always the best husband. I suppose I took her for granted…she was my darling little groupie who never stopped cheering for me until she stopped applauding for anything. I didn’t always understand her grief. I thought she would heal in time but the weeks, man, they turned into months and suddenly we were two strangers that couldn’t stop long enough to notice each another.”
“What was she grieving for?”
“Her sister, and her sister’s baby” I said.
We were all quiet for a while and I watched the smoke swirl in the air. I thought of something and laughed with my heart aching. “I actually ran past her a few weeks ago in the park and if I didn’t happen to turn around to check out the ass of another runner, I would have never seen Odette’s own perfect little tush in her cute pink shorts jogging in the opposite direction.”
Marco smiled grimly and shook his head. I looked over at the other two guys who were standing there. They were lighting up cigarettes.
“So that is why I am here, Marco,” I said. “I need you to help me. I want my marriage back. I need to fight for her.” He looked confused but I kept going. “I want to invite Odette out for our first date again. I know it isn’t going to change anything but it might help us remember who we were before we got so damn lost. So, the problem is, ten years ago this place was a small French Bistro and not your lovely Mexican Cantina. I need to recreate that place, just for one night.”
“What? he said. “You wan me to change the decor of my whole restaurant?”
“No, I said. The booth way off by itself in the back, that is where we sat. But it had a white table cloth and a painting of a wine bottle on the wall, not the chili pepper Christmas lights.”
Marco suddenly started to smile. “You listen to me,” he said. “I close tomorrow at 10:00pm You come here then and I cook for you an Italian dinner. We can make that booth whatever you want, come in at 3pm to do that before it gets busy. You bring what you want, you change what you want in jus that area. No one will care right if it looks a bit different from the restaurant? Then when you come with your swan, we will play the Italian music, we will cook you the Italian food and you can have your restaurant back and maybe get your wife back, no?”
I felt my face get hot and I grinned like an idiot. “That is so awesome dude. I love you for this.” I grabbed his smoky face between my hands and kissed his cheek.
“Go on with you, man!” he grumbled at me. I nodded at the other two guys who were still looking at me with the same none-expression. Then I got back in the van with a new motivation, a new hope, and ideas swimming.