After spending the afternoon At the Café, Marv met his friend Ryan for dinner at the Rex, a consistently satisfactory restaurant on Polk Street and one where they wouldn’t have to wait to be seated. Marv and Ryan met at college back east. In terms of the conventional indicators, such as income, career level, marital status, automobile ownership, and breadth of wardrobe, Ryan has proven decidedly more successful than Marv.
Marv swung open one of the restaurant”s large double doors and found Ryan directly in front of him schmoozing with the hostess. They swapped casual handshakes and one-armed hugs before being led to a table.
Marv and Ryan took their seats as a man with thick, black wavy hair walked by their table.
“Did you see that guy’s hair?” Marv asked, picking up the menu. “What an asshole.”
“Still suffering from hair envy, I see.”
“Yeah, among other things.”
“Yours looks pretty good today,” Ryan offered sincerely.
“I know, a little frizzy though. I think it needs a trim. I’ll probably go see Vlad the Cossack next week.”
“Who?” Ryan inquired with a quizzical smile. “Oh, that’s right,” he remembered, “your hair stylist. I forgot your cast of characters for a second there. He’s from the steppes of the Ukraine, right?”
“How the hell should I know,” Marv answered, still looking down at the menu. “It’s not the point.”
Ryan laughed at Marv and took another look at his hair. “You’re right, it is a bit frizzy today. You still putting all that crap in it?”
“First of all,” Marv began sternly, “there was a postprandial nap this afternoon and I hit a wind tunnel on the walk over, thus the frizziness. And second, unless you get kicked in the face by a horse, you don’t get to criticize my beauty measures, you Nordic bastard.”
Ryan started laughing and Marv didn’t let up.
“‘I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name,’” he declared, “and ‘it felt good to be out of the rain.’”
They returned to the menus after some nodding.
“The writing must be going well, then,” Ryan said sarcastically.
Marv didn’t respond, as he noticed the waitress approaching.
“Can I get you guys something to drink?” she asked.
“I’ll have an Amstel Light,” Ryan said.
“I may have a beer later,” Marv explained, “but I’ll start with a Diet Coke please.”
“You’re back on the DC?” Ryan asked, genuinely surprised.
“Yep, and I’m not happy about it.” Marv briefly glanced down at the menu before looking up at the waitress with a self-deprecating smile. “I used to have a problem.”
“Is that a fact?” she asked, seeming vaguely interested.
“Well, fact may be a bit strong, but there was definitely something going on,” Marv insisted, pushing his glasses against the bridge of his nose. Ryan looked on with prideful delight as the waitress began to soften.
“I really like those shoes by the way,” Marv threw out, pointing down to his own feet.
“What?” she replied, looking down at her shoes, possibly offended.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes to take your orders,” she said sliding away from the table.
He turned back to Ryan and briskly shook his head with a crumpled chin. “I wasn’t happy with that one when I first came up with it the other day either.” Marv decided he wouldn’t try to banter with her when she came back around.
After their meals arrived, Marv disclosed his news. “So I’m going on something of a date tomorrow night” he said, turning the napkin with one hand around the fingers of the other. “Come on Ry, don’t laugh. It’s not that uncommon.”
“Yes it is,” Ryan objected. “You usually just go to the same bar for a few months until something happens.”
“This is true.”
“So does this one cover her mouth when she yawns? Because you’ve had some trouble in the past with–”
“I know, Ryan. I know. And to answer your question, I haven’t had the opportunity to assess that area of her decorum. But the fact that you can condone that kind of thing-”
“I’m not getting into this again, Marv,” Ryan interrupted, leaning back into his chair and simulating dismay.
“Okay, okay,” Marv desisted, showing his palms.
“So where’d you meet her?”
“At the bookstore.”
“Again?” Ryan asked.
“Well it’s a very erotic environment with all the books. I actually ran after her to give her my phone number.”
“Shut the hell up.”
After paying the check and exiting the restaurant, they repeated the twisting handshakes and half embraces.
“I hope things go well with – what was her name again?” Ryan asked.
“Allison. You know, ‘In the desert, you can remember your name, ‘cause,’” Marv recited before cracking up in the face of Ryan”s deadpan.
Marv was still entertained by his last line as he started the short walk home.