August 9, 2018: Another rainy summer afternoon in Atlanta, Georgia.
I’ve been busy trying to find myself the past few years, but, then again, haven’t we all? As most people do at this age, I’ve been searching for myself, but I don’t seem to want to be found. Recently, I’ve been amazed at how many of my friends in my age bracket [28-35ish] have been feeling this way, wondering if we’ve made the right choices in life so far, wondering why our lives aren’t the way we’d envisioned them, wondering why dating is so hard, why marriage doesn’t look like a Cinderella story like the grown folks said it would with all those damned Disney movies they fed us, wondering why ladder climbing is so arduous. It’s cause enough to drive us crazy, to drive us to texting each other after work things like: SORRY, WONT BE ANSWERING MY PHONE WHEN I GET HOME CUZ I NEED TO GRAB A DRINK & FIGURE OUT MY LIFE.
Many of you don’t know these things about me, but now’s your chance to figure them out, my open book to you. This series, Caviar, is the life and times of an admittedly witty, often wry, newly-30-something as she eats and drinks her way through the cities…and her growing pains that sometimes feel like incessant cramps. You know me for my book reviews and author interviews–two of my absolute joys in life–and now you can get to know another side of me, too. Follow along, and we’ll uncover new things together.
When I met her for dinner last week, a massive storm had just hit Atlanta out of nowhere. A monsoon I remember she called it jokingly when she texted me to say she’d be late. I certainly didn’t mind; I’d be late, too, at the slug-like pace I was inching toward our destination, il Giallo Osteria & Bar, less than 3 miles away. I was watching a blonde woman in an above-the-knee dress struggling with her umbrella in the rain as I crept toward the next traffic light in my car. By her attire, she’d clearly been caught off guard by the storm that’d swept in. She was soaked to the bone, hair as though she’d just stepped out of a mid afternoon shower, but still struggling pointlessly with the umbrella. Isn’t that just human nature, though? Don’t we always struggle to salvage things that have already been ruined?
I still arrived at the restaurant before Julia, so I took a seat at the bar next to a nice WASPy couple who chatted about their toy dog and golfing. I struck up a conversation with the bartender, as they’re so good at doing, as he noticed that I was pouring over my proposal for Caviar, this book, Rosé in hand. The bartender was neither dashing nor particularly funny, but the conversation was decent, as he stood there drying his wine glasses and placing them on the shelf, pointing out carciofi, cavalfiore, and grilled octopus on their menu. I eventually settled on the octopus.
When Julia arrived, we hugged and were seated at a table. Reservations were unnecessary at that hour, and there were only one or two other tables seated. Later, that would change. The restaurant would become loud and boisterous with families and after-work colleagues. We would be the only black women in that restaurant, but we wouldn’t mind and would hardly notice because we were there to catch up and to chat books, not to be seen or blend in or anything else that had to do with caring what was on other people’s minds.
It was over my grilled octopus with olive oil mashed potato and pickled onions and her polpette of turkey, beef, and duck meatballs and tomato gravy primas that we discovered how in sync our lives were still. Julia and I always seemed to be experiencing some variation of what the other was going through whenever we met up to catch up–like distorted mirror images of the same story in many ways–and this time was no different. As a Content Director for a religious materials company, she was struggling with the idea of firing an employee who showed up when she felt like it but was decent enough when she did. I, similarly, was in the middle of kid-gloving a member of my team at work, balancing holding her hand through her emotional upsets and still trying to get the articles out of her that I needed for our team to continue prospering as it had been. There were times when that balance was precarious, for the both of us, but we always bonded—laughing, heading shaking, sipping as we compared stories—over the similarities in our corporate lives.
The polpette was okay; I wouldn’t write home about it—or to you, as it were. The octopus was salty beyond belief. Hypertension on a plate. I couldn’t even finish it. We moved on with the meal.
I didn’t like the server. He was older and cagey, and I couldn’t tell if he was just jonesing for a cigarette with his twitchiness (quite likely by the look of him) or if he felt that we wouldn’t be good tippers, so he was impatient to get away. I took note of it but hardly gave it a second thought, because I’d grown used to that in certain settings and always reflected my (lack of) appreciation for such service in the gratuity left on my tab. I ordered a Chianti. Then for poi I went for agnolotti, and Julia went for farfalle. Again, both way too salty. We couldn’t even finish them, which was a shame. By far, the best thing that hit that table that day was the bread, but we still had the laughs, and this book and the upcoming Decatur Book Festival to chat about–and that was more than enough.