You said we’d go somewhere nice.
Wanted to treat me like “a lady”.
I thought I already was: regardless
of your chosen venue. The mood
lighting and soft furnishings. Here
they have particular linen napkins
and staff who smile at your face:
seemingly genuine, not weaselish.
I hope they’re paid something more
than minimum wage for that alone,
though I catch your inward “Ouch!”
at the wine list prices. Pinot grigio
at over a fiver a glass. Dry lipped,
I glug: here now, might as well.
Just a light lunch – nothing heavy.
A crinkled wink as you tell me that.
And so we dither, politely ponder,
for want of any conversation.
Whatsoever. I chase down
our allotted olives: they squirm
from the cocktail stick, ‘til I pierce
their gloss-oiled skins. You watch
the clock and my chest as I stab.
A waitress gleams in, bleached teeth
What would I like? You suck in your gut.
Her eyebrows are plucked incredulous.
She must draw them in. Or always
look slightly surprised. And like to.
I might get mine done the same,
to at least make people think, a bit.
I don’t think you’d like it. Yes, good.
Around us, people eat, consume.
Gorge. Huffing their rancid out-breaths.
Wipe their chins. Tear crafted breads,
drool continental cheeses I can’t spell.
Slaps of flopping red meat flap rustic
with veins of lard – streaky, organic.
I think of old cows’ tongues that loll
and dribble, grassy-gas belches.
Green stains, manure, lazy flies.
I don’t want anything with pesto.
And when did you loosen your tie?
There are more tables outside
for the smokers, now exiled
and fenced off, quite cheerfully,
by law. Main road out of town,
hardly European café culture.
More splitting grey concrete,
bird shit and cracked tarmac.
Buses. Supermarket lorries.
Grubby black cabs. Exhausts,
congestion, schoolkids skiving.
I’ve never smoked. Never felt
the allure. Your hand delves
under the table and, right now,
I’m craving forty a day. Escape.