Today, was Becky’s birthday; she would have been 63.
I started the day by going to the patisserie. It was our special place to go for breakfast treats. I need to start my day there because I often run into people that I can chat with and absorb the energy of friendly folks. After a latte and hot chocolate I was ready to meet the day.
I cleaned the house: bachelor cleaned which is not as meticulous as if Becky had been inspecting my work. But, hay, it meets government specs.
I went to Kowalski’s, a great local chain grocery with good produce, deli meat, etc., and picked up flowers: a dozen red roses and an autumn bouquet full of yellows and oranges. The roses sit on a corner of the fireplace hearth and the bouquet is in the dinning room table.
I tried to take a nap but I was too restless. A cascade of thoughts pelted me: some about Becky and some just out of the wild blue.
I then got cleaned up and dressed in black pants, a black knit shirt, and a dark blue tweed herring bone coatm black shoes that I’ve only worn for weddings and funerals finished it. Becky would have fought with me for an hour to get dressed up: clean levi’s was fine for me. But today, all I could think of was making Becky proud.
I then went to Cafe Ena: our place.I had thought of inviting other of Becky’s friends to join me but I’m not ready for company.
I got there before the rush and had the place much to myself. That was good because I was filled with sadness and tears.
I started by ordering a bottle of Honoro Vera, a Spanish merlot. I toasted Becky for all the good that she had done during her life, all the pain that she had soothed. I didn’t feel a need to tell her how much I loved her, simply because I do that every day.
I ordered the Camaron Caribe, a battered deep fried shrimp, that was our favorite. I didn’t order the guacamole because it was just too much. We often talked about the perfect evening was to come to Ena’s and order several appetizers with a good bottle of wine.
Because it was early, the staff was still setting up for the evening. The Maître d’, Jose went to each table and set out fresh flowers. He then returned with a tray of red and yellow votive candles that he placed on each table. His face was lit by the flickering light and for an instant I thought of the candles that Becky and I would light at Notre Dame in Paris.
While I drank my wine, I watched the darkening sky and the clouds sweeping in from the south-east. Across the street is the patisserie. In the darkening evening, the warm lights of the patisserie reminded me of the times that Becky and I had sat at a sidewalk cafe and watched night cover Paris.
Suddenly, I am aware that life is good even though it is bittersweet.
The music in Ena’s is a Latin cafe mix. I can’t help but drum my fingers in rhythm with the complex music. I am reminded of Madrid and a tapas bar where, on a cool December evening, Becky and I sampled a few of the myriad of delights. It was Christmas Eve, 2009 and we were going to go a Mozart concert. We had a wonderful time and returned to our hotel exhausted.
I order the Conchas, pan seared scallops on a bed of coconut risotto with a sprig of mint. I am a creature of habit and the Conchas get me every time. Tonight they are even better than their usual exceptional.
I toast Becky again. I thank her for enduring love and patience.
It is getting late enough that the dinner crowd is starting to coming in. The energy increases.
I have always liked to watch people, to see them interacting and imagine the emotional dialog that plays out. I realize that when Becky was with me she grounded me. Rather than being an observer, I was connected directly to the pulsing blood of her life. Now, I am untethered, I can imagine the interplay of life that I see at other tables, memories of my own life, but adrift. There is a remoteness that has entered my life.
The Honoro Vera is almost gone.
I’m not certain if the wine has lowered my inhibitions and allowed me to think more honestly or if I am in my cups, as they used say in the 19th century.
The conchas are cold but still delicious.
I savor the moment, the world outside and the growing crowd inside.
I’ve killed the bottle of wine. One dead soldier bobbing in the wake of a perfect meal.
No dessert tonight. I’m done, stick a fork in me.
I have pleasant glow and I feel Becky with me, scolding me for drinking too much, but surrounding me with her love.
Hector, the owner and chef is finishing a meal with his kids. I stop by and tell him that the Honoro is an excellent Merlot and that the Conchas were, as usual, perfect. We start to talk about Becky and he tells me about how important she was to the opening of Ena’s and that it was an honor to have her picture on the alter for Dia de Los Muertos. Becky is a part of Cafe Ena’s.
The night is over. I’m home and thinking about seeing what I can download from Netflix.
The house is neatened up, there are fresh flowers, and I feel Becky’s presence just out of sight.
Happy Birthday Becky.