Home | Archive | Itineraries | Events | FAQ | Columns/Links
Advertise | Newsletter | About/Subscribe | Submissions | Art Walk | Books | THE2NDHAND Writers Fund

**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

Back to Archive Index

Mike Smith

Me and one of my coworkers enjoy eating at a little restaurant that's within walking distance of our office. We eat there at least three times a week, sometimes four. It's closed on Mondays, so it's almost impossible for us to eat there five times a week, although once, I think we went twice in the same day.

This restaurant is quietly tucked away in an art museum. Whenever the museum staff sees us walk in, they know that we're coming in just for lunch. From time to time, we'll look at the art, but we're both just really craving the grilled chicken with swiss and the special tea, special because of some secret ingredient they use.

"Hey partner," Aaron says as we approach the entrance of the restaurant, which is right across from this beautiful big fountain. Aaron is the head waiter at this restaurant and knows us well, but not quite as well as he probably thinks. I've seen Aaron in the middle of the night, at a grocery store, pushing his two kids around in their strollers. Aaron calls us "partner" and sometimes "brother," but never "chief," which seems to carry with it a bit more sarcasm when said in restaurants.

"The usual, fellas?" he says, seating us in one of our favorite tables. We confirm his suspicions and he marks our orders on his little notepad.

"Be right back then," he says. On a usual day, we'll sit at our table and talk about work and all of the things we have in common. You see, my coworker and I are quite close. We know each other outside of work.

Our drinks arrive within mere seconds it seems. I usually pour some sweetener in my special tea, while my co-worker drinks it as it is. My co-worker and I love the way it tastes. He prefers the big chunks of oranges that are occasionally left in, while I hate those big chunks and think they're a little gross. We talk more about our lives over tea and wait anxiously for our food to arrive.

Aaron fills us up with tea whenever we run low and sometimes talks about his own life with us. Once he told us why George W. Bush is a horrible president. Another time he told us that he went out and partied one weekend. We wished him a happy 26th birthday one day because one of his coworkers, Chris, taped a happy birthday sign to his back. He seemed a little embarrassed by that.

Our food arrives and we consume the sandwich and chips in just a few minutes, leaving the pickle and sandwich dressings behind. While waiting for our checks, we discuss just how good the grilled chicken with swiss was and how we can't wait to come back again. We also talk about more random things, like songs we grew up hearing. My coworker started singing old Boyz II Men songs one day, just to be funny. Aaron looked over at us that day and caught my coworker singing, "I'll make love to you, like you want me to...."

From across the restaurant, Aaron asked my coworker a question. "Is that what you're going to do to him tonight?" Now, we're sure that Aaron had suspected my coworker and I of being gay lovers, even though he knows I'm married and has even seen my wife in the restaurant with me once or twice. That day, he wanted his suspicions to be known to all of his customers. We just kind of smiled and pretended as if he hadn't asked a question, pretending instead to be more interested in our special tea.

We left that day, laughing about what Aaron had said. The next day my coworker was at home, sick, and I decided to eat at our favorite restaurant alone. When I walked in, Aaron approached me and asked me a question. "Hey chief, where's your partner today?"