Alibi V.23 No.46 • Nov 13-19, 2014 

Meditative Meals

Pictures on the Wall

Cervantes Restaurant & Lounge

via cervantesabq.com

Where does crushed velvet come from? How did it find itself on the booths and walls of a New Mexican restaurant? Why did they choose brown velvet? There is a young couple sitting in the booth across from me. She has the type of hair you always hope to leave the salon with. His hat is rested on the booth, a sort of politeness that seems surprising. They’re not speaking, and maybe they just don’t have fun anymore, or maybe this is what their fun looks like. I’ve been that quiet one at a dining table before, and it’s really none of my business anyway, so I order another Silver Coin margarita and study the pictures on the walls. Politicians, people with ties, people shaking other people’s hands. I don’t recognize any of them, but still I wonder about them. Can they parallel park? Do they believe in astrology? Are their backs broken and tired from years of convincing everyone they have solutions? I wonder if they like jelly beans or parades, or if they prefer quiet Sunday mornings drinking from Keurigs.

The crushed velvet booths remind me of decades I was never part of. They remind me of my grandmother who once worked in the Minnetonka moccasin factory in Minneapolis, and how she collects rainwater in a tin barrel outside her house to wash her hair with once a week. The lighting is all oranges here, and the television plays a sports game that I can’t make sense of because I don’t understand sports, but I am again reminded of my desire to maybe make it on the wall of a restaurant someday. I wonder if sports players ever just don’t feel like playing and if they wish they’d become CPAs instead. The couple is laughing now, which makes me feel better. They’re having fun, even if they weren’t 10 minutes ago. That’s what’s amazing about sharing your time with someone—things are always moving.

I order another Silver Coin margarita and study the pictures on the walls. Politicians, people with ties, people shaking other people’s hands. I don’t recognize any of them, but still I wonder about them. Can they parallel park? Do they believe in astrology?

I order green chile chicken enchiladas and ask for an egg up top, something I only recently started doing. I stare at the basket of sopapillas on my table and the spout that holds honey. I glance at a picture of a presidential event the restaurant catered. I wonder if the president would also order an egg up top and if he eats his sopapillas first or last. The chile is hot, and the enchiladas are graciously portioned with just enough rice to help me manage the spice. Here they use mozzarella cheese, and the richness balances out the corn tortillas hidden beneath a mountain of chicken and chile.

As I finish my meal, I notice my waiter seems bored. There are only a few customers right now, and he is wiping down already clean tables, trying to find something to do. He’s a sweet man, and I wonder if he looks more like his mother or his father. His features are soft, and he has the type of eyes that let you know he’s paying attention. I wonder if he went to college and if he misses anyone in particular these days. He has the sincerity of a boy, like he somehow avoided becoming cracked and defensive like so many adults often do. He anxiously laughs a lot, and even though I know it’s impossible, I hope he never has a broken heart. It’s rare to meet a person who seems to know how to talk to anyone, about anything. I want to tell him not to worry about me, that I don’t need anything, and that I hope they frame a picture of him one day and hang it on the wall here.