Underneath Grand Opening there is a hand written sign. Pho & Chinese Food & Free Drinks.
The paint they chose was teal and pink. The lights were dim, the orchids fake, the Grand Opening balloons popped and dangling from the awning.
But the lights were still on and the not too pretty waitress was sitting on the booth, all by herself, alone. Somehow the way she sat made me think of my grandma, and how people can spend their lives inside their houses, with the TV on, alone.
Ten thirty, probably too late, but the lights are on, Zilla said, and she is sitting there and we are hungry. So we drive past three times, debating it, and each time we drive a little faster, and the raindrops become streaks of yellow light, hitting our windshield, keeping us from our goal.
Now we really want to eat there but we cannot find a place to park.
And then we finally do and we get out and walk shoulders-up, eyes-on-toes, hands-in-pockets against the cold, the rain, quickly up to glow coming from under the Grand Opening sign.
Zilla hesitates and then he takes his hand out of his pocket and pushes the cold handle on the glass door. No little bells ring. The waitress looks up with not much interest and chews at us for a small moment and then waves us away with her chopsticks.
Nothing happens. No one moves.
I feel suddenly irrationally sad. And mad. And I want to hug this woman tight. We will eat with you!
The rain drops and the white rude overhead lights make my skin shine. The red vinyl booths, the Sriracha sauce, the overripe plum of her lips almost make me cry.
Outside the window, our car, a color the dealer said was tango red, looks orange. We got back in and drove home and ended up not eating at all.
I wouldn’t have gone back. But Zilla wanted to give them a chance. It doesn’t have to be fancy, he said, to be good.
This time there was an older man with a few grew strands of a long beard and a dingy half apron waiting, like he always had been, on the same red booth. His hands were still.
The fresh rolls weren’t fresh. The sprouts were starting to go brown and they were loosely folded, like they were made by a child.
The sweet chili sauce came from a jar. The feel of it, oddly thick, lacking vinegar, lacking love, took over my thoughts.
I began to taste what I felt. Why do you think I want to eat this? Do you want to eat this? You must not respect me! You must not take yourself seriously! What a waste! You are completely foolish! Opening a restaurant is not easy! Nothing is easy!
Over a not-so-fresh fresh roll, I get stupid, angry and mad.
I want them to suffer. To go out of business. But just sitting there, they don’t even seem to care.
We left the restaurant and we left town-this was when we traveled a lot, because Zilla’s dad was sick- and when we came back the grand opening was over and the place was closed. No lights, nobody.
I imagined that they left like an office worker does in the movies, gathering a few items into a brown box that goes who knows where, making their little space into an empty space again.
The only things they left (was there ever anything else?) were the cash register, the booths, the chopsticks in their paper covers on the table, their aprons, as if they were coming back for them, draped over the counter, the Sriracha on the tables, their fake orchids, and their Grand Opening sign.
This is an old piece I never got to posting. This space—on Capitol Hill in Seattle—has been five restaurants since.