Yesterday, I had a strong desire to meet somebody for lunch. I guess I wanted the company, wanted to be social or wanted a reason to escape some concentrated obligations. I ran through the roster of candidates. Sonia would love to meet, but Sonia had cousins. On any subject of conversation—political, historical, academic—she had a cousin who did that, said that, was an expert on that and we’d go through the bibliography of the accomplishment, burying the subject. Fran always asked to go to lunch and I sifted through that scenario. Fran was a devoted friend, smart as a whip in her job as an analyst. But that is the subject we talked about, her job as an analyst. I knew every co-worker over and under her, I knew every snipe and jab and woe and shared her exhaustion. Bonnie was an old friend and up on everything; a political wonk like me, read my kind of books. About to text her, I recalled laboring to get a word in edgewise about my take on Trump, my assessment of Hillary’s What Happened, my whatever and eventually, my frustration.
I’m a good listener and I like learning something new, always seeking a hidden nugget under the brittle shell. But what I wanted going out to lunch was the give and take of a good conversation: listening and speaking and affording space for the transition between the two, space to articulate a thought and thereby bring it to fruition. A good conversation is like a work of art, the awakening of a thought or memory or insight, then bringing it inside to expand toward something else or simply to retain with a comfortable sense of a new occupant residing in your psyche. I had to accept that the GC wasn’t going to happen with these ladies, likeable as they were.
So whose company would I want to lunch with? Of course, it would be my own. I knew it the next day approaching my favorite diner at the lunch hour. I instinctively took a table on the busy side, not the “dining” side in deference to its being a functional event. From time to time, a lone man entered to sit at the counter (men are all about function); no lone women. Tables all about had munching and chattering couples of mixed genders. The waitress, cheerful and efficient, took my order of coffee and the chicken salad sandwich special. We negotiated the substitution of cold slaw instead of soup. No sooner had she walked away, a warm feeling came over me. I recognized it as happiness. It took only a moment more for thoughts about the novel I’d been working on to enter my head. A problem floundering in my brain began working its way to solution. A thin string of narrative appeared there; I followed it as my coffee came and I poured the milk and sipped; I hung onto the floating string as you sometimes do in early morning when you try to catch a dream by its tail before it disappears as the light begins coming up.
Oh, I was having a good time. The cheerful efficient waitress brought me extra cold slaw and refilled my coffee several times. So much chicken salad filled the rye bread, I had to bring it home along with the slaw. I gave her a 40% tip and still it was a bargain. Back at home, the glow of happiness lingered and I said out loud—to the same nobody as sat with me at the diner: “I have a good life.”
Back to work later that day, I could not resist mumbling to the vacant face of my computer, “We should do this more often.”