Just Another Night

July 13, 2011

“Well, the guidebook was right. It sure doesn’t look like much from the front.”

We approach the little yellow house which has, certainly, seen better days but I like the cheery color of it. A canary on a street of dull, gray wrens.

“I’m starving.”

“I know. It’s not even six o’clock yet. Jesus. We’ve turned into that couple.”

“What couple?”

“The couple who goes in for the Early Bird Special.”

“Shut up! We are so not that couple. It’s just…well, you’re the one who’s been waking up at 5:30am and clonking around like a moose. We’ve been up forever.”

“I’m just sayin’. Early Bird Special.”

I hit him hard in the arm. “Shut up. You know how mean I get when I’m hungry. Feed me, man. Or suffer the consequences.”

When we walk through the  rickety door, I’m charmed. What looked like a little bucket of a building  blossoms into airy, whitewashed walls, bowls of lily and birds of paradise, tables perched above lapping waves.

“It’s perfect.”

Two beautiful people greet us, all tan and teeth. They’re probably half my age, but I know instantly that they own the place, that this is their baby; I scan the smattering of paintings on the wall–tortugas in all sizes–and I know there’s love invested here.

I squeal with delight when we get a corner table, right by a stretch of wave and rock, embarrassing my husband.  Little sea turtles float over, poke their Yoda-like heads up, looking wise and bewildered at the same moment.

This Early Bird shit ain’t half bad.

There’s maybe twelve tables in all, and while most are vacant, in a few hours, we’d never be able to get in. One of the beautifuls, a surfy-handsome man named Mark, informs us that there’s a few minutes left of happy hour, and happy hour it is.

We drink icy cold Pinot Grigio, nibble on edamame hummus and ahi poke, laugh at the wizened turtle faces as they rise and peek over sea and foam.

We’re on our second glass of wine when they arrive. The woman is striking–incandescent–with a shock of white hair and eyes so light and so blue that she almost looks haunted. Beautiful Mark hugs her, whispers something in her ear that makes her laugh, and wraps his arm around her companion, steering him toward the table next to us.

The man cannot sit down.

His body is there, the chair is there, his feet are moving, but somehow, nothing works together. His shoes tangle on the legs of the chair several times, and he tries to sit when he’s clearly not going to land on the seat, and even when the woman says firmly, “Move your feet a little bit forward, Richard. Forward. Just a few steps…that’s good…oh, nope, honey. Honey, you have to move them up. Forward. Forward, Richard,” nothing seems to register.

He stands there, leaning on beautiful Mark, eyes on his disobedient feet. After a few tries, Mark grabs him, lifts him into his chair, and says, “Those chairs are tricky, man. Sometimes they just don’t cooperate.” He lowers Richard down and squeezes his shoulders gently.  “Hey, Richard. Happy Birthday.”

The woman smiles and says, “Thank you.  I’m afraid he’s not really with us today.”

Richard stares vacantly at the tablecloth and it’s such a small restaurant–I mean, I’m almost rubbing arms with the woman–and all I can think is, Shit. What do I do? Do I try to talk to her? Does she want to be left alone? Is she upset that we are here, on this patio, bearing witness on a day when Richard isn’t really there?

She immediately looks over at us, eyes the wine and the food, and her face breaks open. “Oh, how nice. Honeymoon?”

I smile. She’s got cheekbones like the Matterhorn. “Thank you, but no. Second honeymoon, though. Eleven years.”

“Eleven years,” she says. “That’s wonderful. I’m Jean. Congratulations.”

We shake hands, and her eyes are so blue they’re almost like mirrors; they shine like nobody’s business.

“We got married here,” I say. “On top of  Black Rock. It’s kind of our happy place.”

She laughs a little, winks at me. “Good place to get hitched. Richard and I got married here, too. And then we never left. Richard’s my second husband. The first one…” she looks out at the turtles, who are waiting for crusts of bread, bobbing greedily. “The first one, it just didn’t work out the way I’d thought it would.”

She orders off the menu carefully. It makes my heart hurt a little, this careful ordering. I notice that she orders off of the appetizer menu. She nibbles delicately at her salad. Richard struggles to maneuver his four coconut-crusted shrimp into his mouth. In the end, she cuts them into pieces, popping them into his mouth like Goldfish crackers.

When I see Jean do that, I have to go to the bathroom for a while.

As I exit the bathroom, I grab a busboy. “We’d like to take care of Richard and Jean’s dinner bill,” I say.

“Well you’d better hustle back then, because it’s cake time.”

The cake comes out, chocolate and molten on the inside, and it’s adorned with an extra scoop of ice cream, just like Richard likes it.

We all sing Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to you. Richard eats only the ice cream, but he likes it, I can tell.

When it’s time for them to leave, I hug Richard hard and kiss him three times on his face, because I have no manners. He beams at me and says, “Sheila?”

“That’s a nice thing you did,” our waiter says. “They’ve been coming here since we first opened.”

I don’t feel so nice. In fact, I sort of feel dirty.

A few minutes later, the flower woman–you know the one–the one who shills overpriced flowers at vacation resorts for suckers on honeymoons? Yeah, that woman. The flower woman brings me a single, scarlet rose.

“It’s from the lady. The one who just left–in the blue dress,” she says. “She wanted to say thank you, and that you have a beautiful soul.”

My beautiful soul sits in an expensive restaurant on a lavish vacation and knows that the tender paid today wasn’t just cash; it was a prayer. And that prayer renders me unbeautiful. This is what I pray to the sky. Please, please, let that not be me.

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer July 13, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Dammit. I’m not supposed to cry at work. And now I need to go spend a little time in the bathroom.


jc July 13, 2011 at 3:17 pm

beautiful story. you do have a beautiful soul and you made that day for them a little brighter. big hugs.


Kristi {at} Live and Love Out Loud July 13, 2011 at 3:29 pm

This was so beautifully written. I feel blessed having read it. :)


Erica@PLRH July 13, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Oh gosh, you made me cry. You do have a beautiful soul and I don’t need Jean to tell me that.


ayala July 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm

This is beautiful, and you have a beautiful soul. Thank you for sharing.


Jane July 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Awww. This just tugs at my heart strings. Because it’s beautiful. And YOU are beautiful. And yes, you have a beautiful soul. xoxoxo


annabelle July 13, 2011 at 7:23 pm

This was so beautiful and heart wrenching.


Heather July 13, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Dana my heart is breaking and the tears are rolling. This is a beautiful thing you did. And, it’s ok that it was selfish at the same time. No one wants to be Jean or Richard. You shared that out loud through your act of kindness. You never cease to amaze me – always in fantastic ways. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.


Melanie July 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Wow. So sweet and moving.

Cherish your beautiful soul. Your soul was moved to do something special for that couple. It’s also a human soul – your prayer is one we’d all pray. So no, don’t feel dirty. You did a lovely thing.

Congratulations on eleven years. :-))


koreen July 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

You made me cry. Again. Your stories are so poignant and moving, and I feel like I want to be a better person when I read them. Thanks for nudging the idealist in this cynic.


TKW July 14, 2011 at 8:33 am


Don’t be fooled. I’m a total ass. :)


Naptimewriting July 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Bullshit. Life is a total ass, not you. You are agave syrup in the lemonade.


TKW July 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I’d like to be agave, but I fear I’m not that hip.


From Belgium July 14, 2011 at 4:20 am

Good thing I put on a waterproof mascara this morning. This brought tears to my eyes…


michelle July 14, 2011 at 4:46 am


I can’t say it’s a beautiful story, though it IS beautifully written.

I feel like I can’t breathe.

That dinner will stay with you the rest of your life.

But you already know that.



TKW July 14, 2011 at 8:34 am


You’re right about that. It’s one night I know I’ll never shake off.


Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon July 14, 2011 at 5:29 am

Beautiful. Courageous. Honest. Empathetic. You are all these things and more D. And I know that you will instill these same wonderful traits into your girls.


Tiffany July 14, 2011 at 6:15 am

You got me good this morning, Dana. I’m a puddle. What a beautiful story of love. Truly. I’m sure she wouldn’t have traded her years with Richard while he was still “with her” for anything.


TKW July 14, 2011 at 8:36 am

That’s what I’m hoping, too. That the years he was “there” are enough to see her through. Somehow, I knew you’d understand.


Abby July 14, 2011 at 6:50 am

I think it’s beautiful, and I’m speaking of both the story and your soul. I am around dementia every single day, and it’s not easy, it’s not pretty, but it’s life. Small gestures of kindness are all too often dismissed, but what you did was remind both yourself and others than blessing should be–can be–counted and appreciated.

There is nothing “dirty” about what you did, and I have no doubt that if put in a similar position as Jean or Richard, you would handle things with just as much grace and dignity. Trust me, until you’re there, you never know.

Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself!


Sherri July 14, 2011 at 7:17 am

Brilliant story. The “dirty” you felt is just that odd feeling when you’ve made a gesture that is bold and welcome, but…. you feel odd having been ushered into another’s close little world for a moment. You did such a nice thing. I’m sure Jean (right?) appreciated that you noticed and felt all that you did when you met them :-). Interesting meeting of three different couples at all stages in life.


TKW July 14, 2011 at 8:41 am

That’s interesting. When I wrote this piece, I didn’t really think about that, but it’s true. Three couples, at very different stages in life, but in the end, all that mattered is that we’re human. Really insightful comment. Thank you.


Jenna July 14, 2011 at 7:40 am

I echo some of the comments above–you’ve made me cry!


Carol July 14, 2011 at 8:00 am

Oh my! I have goosebumps!


Phoo-d July 14, 2011 at 8:45 am

You indeed have a beautiful soul and it is made so by your awareness of others and also yourself.


Katybeth July 14, 2011 at 9:40 am

I love this line– “poke their Yoda-like heads up, looking wise and bewildered at the same moment.”
It’s ok to pray it never happens to you– the people who is has happened to understand, and gratefully accept a picked up check, or a heart-felt hug.
Not doing anything at all, refusing to acknowledge–hurts.
We just do the best we can with the moment we are given, don’t we. . .
Such a smooth, soulful read.


SuziCate July 14, 2011 at 9:58 am

You are a beautiful soul, and you’ve made a mess of my heart (and face!) today. As always, most beautifully and tenderly written.


Maria @BOREDmommy July 14, 2011 at 10:30 am

A gorgeous post. What you did was just lovely and sweet and touching. Thanks for the good cry.


Janet July 14, 2011 at 11:42 am

Damn, girl. Made me cry.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with praying that’s not you. They would understand, and wouldn’t wish their pain on anyone else, I’m sure. The truth is, we all have our challenges to bear, if we are lucky to be married a long time. Their struggle was more evident that others. But most people are struggling with something, if you know where to look. If you are lucky, you had some good times before it got hard and still have enough good times to get you through. The pain of losing someone is the price we pay for loving them.
Thanks for putting things in perspective this morning.


Gale @ Ten Dollar Thoughts July 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm

You evil wench! Making me cry at work without so much as a heads-up! You could have at least warned me to close my office door. Not cool, Kitch. Not cool.

Seriously, though, this is the second wonderful story from your trip. Thanks for sharing these. Can’t wait to finally meet you next month. Will e-mail with dates, etc. soon!


TKW July 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm


Can’t wait to have you here!


Erin @ Peasant's Feast July 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I swear that your blog is about as much as an emotional rollercoster I can ride! It’s still beautiful…both the laughs and the tears. Thank you.


TKW July 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I hate rollercoasters. My spirit is too weak. I am always certain that I’m going to die. I’m sure glad you come to mine, though.


Cheryl @ Mommypants July 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Good gravy, woman! I am crying here. And I was thinking the exact same thing – I also don’t want that to be me. Beautifully written, my friend. Beautifully written.



Alex July 14, 2011 at 2:04 pm



Dawn July 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Crying here too, just lucky that I’m not at work! I can’t decide if I’d pray they weren’t me. Because I’m thinking they had some amazing time together, regardless of how short. And that just might make now worth it. I hope it does.

Thanks for sharing. You are an amazing writer. When you write your book, I”ll buy it.


subWOW July 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Nothing else I say can express how I feel about this post, and what I learned from this post, and how I feel about you as a blogger, and as a person. But still I have to try.

Speechless. Love. And, parents like you make me feel hopeful about this world.


Kiyah July 14, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Gloriously beautifully moving, on many levels. Thank you for sharing.


Naptimewriting July 14, 2011 at 8:50 pm



And your honesty? About feeling a bit dirty for wishing it weren’t you? Took the sweet and made it raw. You’re rock shrimp in a sea of goddamned sole.


TKW July 16, 2011 at 10:51 am

I’ve always wanted to be rock shrimp. xo


Barbara July 15, 2011 at 4:32 am

What a lovely story. Why did you feel unbeautiful? You made a wonderful gesture.
My grandmother must have said a million times: “There but for the grace of God, go I.”


elizabeth July 15, 2011 at 5:35 am

This post makes me feel lots of feelings…including making me feel grateful that I found you as a friend.


Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities July 15, 2011 at 6:27 am

Beautiful story. Beautiful soul.


TKW July 15, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Thanks, Aidan! Hi!


Maria July 15, 2011 at 8:31 am

Oh, Kitch. The tears. Because that is my fear too. that this chaotic, beautiful mess of a life that John and I share will be robbed by the monster of dementia. Because I am currently surrounded by it: my mother, my uncle, the memories of John’s Grandpa. It’s too much.

I am so glad you were able to put a little light in Jean’s day when Richard was not there. It is just heartbreaking to bear witness to the journey some people are on. It might have felt selfish, a bit of an offering to the gods to spare you this scenario, but it was a beautiful gesture from a generous soul.


CK July 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Ow, my throat hurts from the giant lump that just arose. Dang it, girl. It’s like you are a puppetmaster of my emotions.

I always knew you had a beautiful soul, though.


TKW July 16, 2011 at 1:09 am

As do you, and you know it. Or you’d better know it. Do I sound like a mobster now? But I mean it.


pamela July 15, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Wow. This is breathtakingly good. The story, the way you can identify my own mixed up feelings when I come across a couple like this, that wonderful woman. You do have a beautiful soul. And so does Jean. Thank you SO much for this.


Dana July 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm

The world needs more people as wonderful as you.


bryan July 16, 2011 at 7:54 am

Great writing my friend. Touching and true to the core. Even if it was for selfish reasons you did a sweet thing. What matters is the kindness.


Cathy July 16, 2011 at 10:57 am

What may seem frightful to you now may not be that way later. My grandmother is in a similar situation. While it is draining on her, the love is there and she has the sense of caring for a love that cannot attend to himself. Similar to motherly love and tending to the child.


camilla July 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm

That was a beautiful story. You do so many kind things in this world with your big heart


faemom July 16, 2011 at 11:03 pm

This was a beautiful post. And I get it. I get the guilt and the worry, but you used it to do something good. Most people take that feeling and bring hurt to others to make those feelings go away. And that is why you have a beautiful soul.

But when you wrote, “The first one, it just didn’t work out the way I’d thought it would,” I got chills. Because that is what I will say.


TKW July 17, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Oh, Fae.



Contemporary Troubadour July 17, 2011 at 10:41 am

Heartwrenching. I understand the conflict, too — at the heart of it, though, their story touched you, which means you are not indifferent. And I love that about you.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri July 20, 2011 at 9:05 am

Beautiful words. Beautiful story. And I so get it.
Dana, this was a brilliant piece of writing.


Stephane July 20, 2011 at 9:52 am

Taking the time to really see another’s circumstances, try them on for fit and experience them as your own is the definition of compassion. Honey, I think it is a disservice to dismiss your noble reaction as selfish.


Heidi July 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I always enjoy reading your stories so much, even if I do end up sniffling in my office. You’re a wonderful writer.


Salad in a jar July 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I never seem to know the best thing to do in these situations but you handled it perfectly.


jessica July 26, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Holy heavens, that was absolutely beautiful. Prayer or no prayer, that was amazingly kind.


Sheila @ Chinaberry August 29, 2011 at 11:31 am

Wow, what a powerful piece. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to remember your kindness and hope to pass it on.


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