A breeze wafted across the patio, soothing in the warm humid Atlanta
evening. . He was middle aged, though he still thought of himself as young,
prematurely gray but still vibrant on many levels. His attire was casual, well
worn blue jeans and polo shirt, hard soled shoes with no socks that either
indicated style or reluctance to match black socks on quiet evenings. He
glanced at his watch as the waiter approached and begged a water. He'd
been waiting only a short time and amused himself with making up little
stories capturing the people around him, filling in their lives based on the
briefest of glimpses and completely fabricated assumptions

At the next table Bruno and his girlfriend Charleste discussed children and
gay love.

She was coming. They'd been hanging out for almost two years, week in
and week out, dining and laughing away the seasons in chic bistros and
dirty dives as the mood struck them. Or at least, he hoped she was coming.
She was frequently late, but had never stood him up for dinner. Tonight
was a bistro, one of Atlanta's many that popped up and disappeared with
the changing of the leaves.

Two tables over, Julie found out Sharon was really a man, and
immediately...got some bread? Um...okay.
 

Some nights they laughed, telling stories and sharing long after the meal
was over, plates cleared away. Other nights they performed as though on
obligation, the food going so quickly and the conversation so tight that he
felt he'd only been invited along to pick up the bill. He enjoyed both
however. His evenings with her were the highlight of his week.

At the table by the outdoor fountain, James and Wanda shared notes
about their secret plan to steal a Rembrandt.

She breezed in, her ever present blackberry at her ear. He sometimes
wondered if she slowed down to ask if some was expecting her or just
wandered about restaurants until she saw him. She was young, with a
close cropped haircut that wasn't quite a fade and wasn't quite an afro, but
that brought out her fine cheekbones and didn't obscure from the inherent
cuteness of her face. Her body was a curious mix of athletic and feminine
ideal, one that men admired and even had other women, even who didn't
want to sleep with her, envious of her shape.

Her phone conversation was animated, as they always were. She had girl
connections, relationships that needed to be constantly watered and
nurtured and she sometimes admonished him for not calling his own
friends more often. Her directed meander through the tables left her at the
chair next to him and he stood to give her a hug, their greeting of choice.
There would be another at the end of their rendezvous, one where his
mind often checked his hands at her back instead of going lower. They
were "friends".

Two tables over Mikey, Fredico and Joe finished up their food, with a full
night of bird watching and harmony singing to go.


Her phone conversation continued. He let it slide, but then for her he'd let a
lot of things slide. He wondered why he did that sometimes, so often he'd
made exceptions to personal rules for her. A lot this he knew was his fault,
having indulged her and spoiled her as time had gone by, but then he
really enjoyed her spending time with her.  

The Burbleson's got up and made their way out, never knowing that they'd
secretly fallen in love. With each other.


Drinks appeared. The phone call ended and she greeted him warmly, a
twinkle in her eye. Her smile, even with her late into the game braces, still
caused him to smile even after seeing it a thousand times. They joked and
caught up, the conversation by mutual unspoken agreement upbeat. Their
conversations were rarely dreary, rarely less than a bright spot. After two
years he knew from glancing at the menu what she as most likely to order
and made his selection accordingly, so that their plates would be different.
Her blackberry chimed once and she looked at it and dismissed it, he
smiled inwardly happy that he was a least more important than one other
person.

Light conversation, but steady until the food arrived. The plates as always
were too big, food piled on top food. He worried about his weight eating like
this, knowing he wasn't as slim as he could be. It was only a matter of time
before some younger slimmer guy broke up the continuity of these little
meetings. Their private jokes and late night phone messages a thing to be
remembered.

She spooned some of food onto his plate. Sometimes when she was full, or
if the food was really good...or if she was being playful, she would do this.
He half grinned and ate it like she did, smelling the food first, and then
tasting it. She half grinned back. Little moments like this were what made
the nights worth spending.

They waved off dessert, she relaxed and patted her stomach in mock
satisfaction, her casual tee with catchy comment stretching in a way that
made him want to
spend the night..., he banished those thoughts for now.
He paid, as he almost always did, in one of those little gestures that tapped
the concept of friends in it’s forehead with a small mallet. In a few moments
she would leave, and he would go home, fall into bed and sleep off the
fattening meal and slimming conversation.

..it was a good night.