At yet another in that long, unbroken series of latenight meals with Chris and Eric that marked that great lost period of our lives, Chris had removed his shoes and would periodically (for emphasis or for the pleasure of the sound itself) bang them down on the tabletop. When other patrons glanced in our direction with curiosity or pity, frustration or amusement, Chris would respond with some typically understated bon mot. My favorite was “What? That’s the way I do it!” but the frequent ejaculatory and self-congratulatory shouts of “Comedy Gold!” were also welcome.
When the waitress came to insist that we be quiet lest she be forced to ask us to leave, Chris assented readily to her request and even promised a generous tip for her trouble. As she walked away, he turned to us and said - at a volume impossible for her not to overhear - “Just because she’s heavyset doesn’t mean we have to listen to her.”
Eric, perhaps aware of the awkwardness of the situation even through his inebriated haze, slid under the table and out the other side. He stumbled to the restroom, where, if he is to be believed, he peed in the sink, but vomited in the urinal.
Another time, Eric had a plate of hashbrowns sent to another table where two rather homely girls were sitting. After asking the obvious question of the waiter, they followed the answering index finger and looked over at our table. I smiled sheepishly. Eric sat drunk and stony-faced, unable to focus his gaze, and Chris raised his fork in salute and smiled broadly.
Later, when Eric (more sober now) noticed that the girls had never touched his gifted hashbrowns, he arose huffily and walked over to their table, snatched the plate from them with a snort and returned to our booth, where he ravenously devoured the unwanted and now cold hashed browns.
There were other nights and other diners and other pancakes and other friends. Those days have become, for me, the watered down and unproductive reflections of echoes of the Lost Generation’s café nights – a moveable feast that I barely registered passing by.
Had I known, I would have paid more attention.