Slice of Life 5/25/21: Lunch with a friend, made momentous by a pandemic
It’s familiar and strange, all at the same time: My first lunch at a restaurant since the pandemic began 15 months ago. I put on a sundress and stick things in a small purse. The only difference is I choose a matching mask to wear, as well.
I plug in the restaurant on Google Maps. “You’ve been here 2 years ago,” my app tells me.
When I arrive, there’s one family of four eating outside, with all the other tables totally empty. I don’t see Kim, but I peek inside to check. There’re no customers inside, only three employees, even though it’s 12:15 on a Saturday. After a minute, Kim walks up the sidewalk. We decide that it’s not too hot to eat outside, as long as we grab one of the tables in the shade. The only difference is we wave excitedly instead of hugging hello.
We choose our salad and flatbread combos, pay, and fill up fountain drinks. Kim waits for our food while I use the bathroom. The only difference is I don’t touch the bathroom door handle, except with a paper towel.
Our food is ready, so we head outside and choose the table furthest from the family already eating. We take off our masks and dig in. It’s utterly delicious - fresh, hot flatbread and perfectly flavorful salad, all made right here and not made by us. I’m so taken with the experience that I scarf mine all down in no time flat. Kim is so busy talking that she takes at least twice as long to eat hers.
It’s familiar, sitting across the table and catching up on life. It’s strange, because her stories are all about the process of leaving. Her job interviews, her housing search, her resignation letter. “Should I submit it yet?” she asks me. “That depends,” I say. “How certain are you?”
Deep in her heart, she knows it’s the best decision. It’s time to start the next phase of her life. But she’s filled with regret, for all the things she hasn’t done here, especially with the pause-button that was this past year, and for all the things she’s loved here, the students and friends she’ll miss dearly.
It’s familiar: Preemptive nostalgia, rose-colored-leaving-glasses, and the conviction that it’s time to move on to your next new home. The only difference is, I get to be the friend who stays, this time.