So I started dating again.
My husband and I are going out on Sundays now, so I’m going to write a weekly review of my date-with-my-husband-brunch experience. Maybe I’ll review the food, maybe I’ll review the marriage. You never know around here.
I couldn’t manage to get last week’s review of the Marche Cafe written all the way. The story had a hard time wrapping around itself, and I couldn’t figure it out. A week of perspective helped it all make sense.
We had a complicated date last Sunday, with many diversions. We got a late start and then we stopped at the new Off the Waffle breakfast place in a little strip mall near 27th and Willamette in Eugene, but the line snaked from the counter, where you order, all the way out to the sidewalk.
“Forget it,” he said, “I can’t stand in that line in the middle of the restaurant, and I can’t eat in there with all those people standing in line.”
So we got back in the car and drove over to a pancake house he likes, but the line there was even longer. They do have a lobby to wait in, but it was filled with about 10 people, and another 10 were outside. There was room to stand around in the parking lot, but I wasn’t interested.
“It’s after church now,” I said, “and since we don’t go to church, we should have a clear advantage over all the people who do. Let’s start earlier next time.”
The point of these dates is to spend time together, but sometimes sitting on the deck eating cereal at home is more romantic than standing in line with strangers for pancakes. If we went home without eating though, it might seem like the date failed. So we let Jane, the GPS lady who lives on the car’s dashboard, lead us around the city on a mission to find a decent brunch, minus crowds.
Finally, we ended up at Marche, inside the upscale food court in the 5th Street Market, where the food was very good, local and fresh, and I tried not to mind too much when I had to make three trips up to the counter for different things my husband wanted but did not want to go ask for: butter for the French Toast? I’ll get it. Syrup? Sure, I’ll get it! They forgot the bacon? Huh. I’ll go ask.
The staff was professional and friendly and apologetic, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal, but we did have to eat with tiny little disposable/recyclable silverware that made us feel a bit like we couldn’t be trusted with the silverware. Like, we finally graduated from the kid’s table at Thanksgiving, but there wasn’t enough of Great Grandma’s good silver to go around. Sorry, adults only.
“There’s something wrong with this fork,” he said.
“It’s recyclable,” I said.
“I want to throw it away so no one ever has to use it again,” he said.
“Ah, good idea,” I said.
“Next time I’m bringing my own forks,” he said, as he rushed me through my giant bowl of latte that I didn’t really need but couldn’t help but try. Mostly, I really just wanted to sit for more than five minutes in a row.
It was marvelous latte, with perfectly foamy, artistic milk shaped a bit like a…Georgia O’Keeffe painting, which made us giggle, and for a second I felt like I was 24 again, in a funky youth hostel up the hill from Bologna, Italy, where they served similar bowls of coffee and fresh bread for breakfast every morning.
I remember sitting in the big kitchen with all the other young travelers, planning my day of adventure in a blank journal page, while drinking that good, strong coffee with hot milk. I can’t remember if I thought about what my life would be like 20 years later, sitting back in my home town, at the 5th Street Market with a man I’d been married to for 17 years. Probably not.
Back then, the 5th St. Market was a hodgepodge of funky shops, and there was a hotdog stand where the Marche cafe is now, nothing upscale about it! Sort of like my life, 20 years ago, I guess. But now it’s all lovely and beautiful because the owners just kept working away at it, all these years. Sort of like my life now, if I’m honest.
I learned a lot about my husband last week at brunch, like what it really must feel like to have such a strong aversion to crowds that you have to stop yourself from getting up and leaving in the middle of a meal, just to get out, because you feel trapped, even though you know you aren’t.
Agoraphobia is the short word for it.
I’ve had a panic attack or two myself, which often hit at the strangest times, when I least expect them, and make me feel like I can’t breathe, and I want to throw up and run away at the same time. But they are random and rare, and I can usually talk myself through them and be done in 5 or ten minutes. They don’t last a life time, or stop me from going to a party or the grocery store or a restaurant. Not much stops me from going to a party.
So I felt my patience wearing thin at his latte rushing, after working hard not to be overly exasperated with the complicated morning of false starts and stops.
“Just let me drink my coffee now,” I said, trying not to get irritated with him. Since we were on a date. “What’s the rush?”
“Feeling a bit panicky,” he said softly, so the people right behind him wouldn’t hear. “Let’s go walk by the river or something?”
And then my heart softened a bit, and I listened to him explain little bits and pieces of what it feels like to deal with Agoraphobia.
And then he made some jokes, and I made some jokes, because that’s how we deal with hard things and it works for us. And then I made him take some pictures of my coffee, and complained about how bad they were, until we were both laughing again, like usual, and it was time to go.
So today we left for brunch early, while the church goers were probably finishing their very last prayers, and we went to Off the Waffle again, and there wasn’t a line this time. We ordered at the counter, and 7 minutes later a pretty young woman in an apron brought us our food, with the syrup already poured on top , and I got up once to get some real forks from the counter.
There was a dead bird on the sidewalk in front of the shop, but a girl was playing the harp inside, so it somehow seemed okay. An old man kicked the bird to the curb while I watched, and then the owner came out with a garbage bag and a pile of napkins and carefully placed the bird inside, and then whisked it out of site, off to heaven, probably, as the harpist plucked away.
These two little girls sitting outside our window were thrilled with their bounty of freshly whipped cream and fruit. If I were still going to Sunday school, I would have prayed for this kind of breakfast after church:
Today, I drank my tea as quickly as I could. My husband took a picture of me with the bathroom key, in the courtyard near the restaurant, and I tried not to complain about the lighting.