“Dinner at Eric the Red’s,” a love story from the novel

city has many faces front cover only

“It’s for you,” Caridad Vargas said. “It’s Dr. Galván. I don’t know what he’s calling about. He didn’t say.”

“I want you to join me for dinner this evening, Dr. Manning. At that Scandinavian restaurant on Reforma. Eric el Rojo. You know the place? You’ve been there. At six. Yes. I want to discuss some business with you. Yes, what we have discussed about affiliating with the clinic. I’ll be coming directly from my office. Casual will be fine. It’s just an informal chat over dinner, and you can tell us how authentic their cuisine is. Being that you’re from Minnesota, I assume you are familiar with Scandinavian cuisine, no? Good. Six o’clock, then.”

Hurrying home after his last patient, he shaved, changed into something more casual than a shirt and tie, and left, running down the hill to Reforma.

“I wonder where he’s off to?” Jesús said, looking onto the street below.

“Maybe he has a date, darling. He is a healthy heterosexual, you know.”

“I’ll ask him when he gets home.”

“Oh, for goodness’ sakes, Jesusito, leave the poor man alone for once.”

“Ha! You’re just as curious about it as I am.” It was true. Martín spent the rest of the evening chewing his nails and wondering.

It was exactly six o’clock when he walked into the restaurant and was greeted by Dr. Galván and a tall, attractive young woman he had seen leading tours at the Museum of Modern Art.

“Joseph, I would like you to meet my daughter, Elizabeta. Lisa, this is Joseph Manning, the psychologist I’ve been talking about bringing into the clinic on an associate basis. He will keep his office, and also associate with the clinic.” After they were seated, he explained himself. “When my wife was alive, I involved her every time I invited someone to join us at the clinic. Since her passing five years ago, I’ve asked Elizabeta to be involved. I hope you don’t mind.”

Looking into Lisa’ eyes, he had to say that he didn’t mind at all. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, señorita Galván.”

“Please call me Lisa, Doctor Manning.”

“And please call me Joe.” He missed the twinkle in Leopoldo Galván’s eyes that, had he seen it, would have conveyed the message that Lisa’s father had accomplished what he had set out to do, which was get these two young people together. Not only was Joseph Manning someone he liked, he was taller than his daughter, who towered above most of the young men both of them knew. She was tall like her mother’s father, Álvaro Borges. He hoped very much that the two of them would hit it off, fall in love, and marry. Then he told himself, “Leopoldo, calm down! After all, they have just met. Get too obvious about it, you could ruin it all.” So he sat back, signaled the waiter, and changed the subject to what they might order for dinner from the strange-looking selection shown on the menu.
Happily, they picked selections that each of them liked. The dinner went very well, Leopoldo Galván thought, as the young people couldn’t stop looking at each other. At one point, both of them forgot to eat.

* * *

“It’s a call for you, Dr. Manning. It’s señorita Galván.”

“Can you come over to the Museum of Modern Art this afternoon? I’d like to have lunch with you and show you around the museum. Give you a behind-the-scenes tour to what we have. You can? What is best for you; on-the-nose at noon, or a bit after?”

“On-the-nose at noon is good, Lisa. I look forward to seeing you again. Where shall I meet you?”

“Just come in the main entrance. I’ll be there.”

He looked at his watch, finished his paperwork, and left. “I’ll be back for my next appointment at two, Caridad.”

“Enjoy your lunch, Doctor Manning,” she said, hiding her smile behind a file.

When he arrived, Lisa was standing out front, waiting for him. “Lunch first, or tour first, Joe? I’m famished, so I won’t be a very good tour guide if I don’t eat something. Will one of the food vendors do? We do have a cafeteria, but, well . . .” she said, making a face, “the food out here is more to my liking. I have a favorite one. They specialize is quesadillas, huaraches, and mamelas made from blue corn and filled with wonderfully yummy things. Have you had them? No? Oh, good!” And, taking him by the hand, she led him through a forest of food vendors until she found her favorite, ordered for them both, then led the way to the lakeside, where they sat on the grass and ate, their lunch spread out on a large, light blue cloth that she had brought with her. He didn’t remember a thing about the exhibits she showed him later on. All he remembered was the sound of her voice. When he returned to the office, he was hypnotized.

“You look happy,” Caridad said as he walked in the door. “Must have been an enjoyable lunch and tour.”

“Mmmm,” he said, walking blindly into his office and shutting the door, missing the grin she hid behind the file she was about to give him.

“I think you’ll be wanting this,” she said a few moments later. “Your patient should be here at any moment.”

“Thank you, Caridad. And, yes, the lunch and the tour were wonderful, and so is the tour guide.” All that afternoon he couldn’t get her out of his mind, this young woman with the deep dark eyes in which he easily lost himself, a young woman who carried herself with such confidence and ease. He remembered having seen her there in the museum before, guiding groups on a tour, even noticed her noticing him, and wondering who she was. Now he knew, and he knew that he wanted to see her again. The thought made him feel lonely, longing to have someone he could call his own and give himself to as his parents had to each other, and Jesús and Martín had with each other. Being with her this afternoon felt so natural. When would they see each other again? Reaching for his telephone, he took his hand away and looked at the file Caridad had given him. He had to concentrate on that. He would call Lisa later, when his appointments were done. When he did, it was to tell her how much he enjoyed his lunch with her and the brief tour of the museum. What he hoped to hear, and did, was that she enjoyed it as well.

“May I see you again?” he asked after making small talk for a few minutes.

“Of course you may, Joe. I’m not able to do anything this evening, but tomorrow I’m free at five, and I’d love to see you then. Dinner?”

“Yes. I’d like to take you to The Salzburg Connection in the Zona Rosa. I think you’ll like the food, and they have both sidewalk patio and dining room seating. I’ll pick you up at the museum. Will five thirty be fine?”

“Yes. I look forward to it. See you then.”
He went home that day with his heart singing.

“He’s whistling, Martín. I’ve never seen him do that.”

“He’s probably in love, Jesusito.”

“Maybe we should invite him over for dinner?”

“No, I think we should let him alone. Bring him breakfast in the morning, perhaps, but maybe not even then. You remember what it was like, don’t you?”

“How could I ever forget, Martín? For the first time in my life, I felt whole.”

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About gwpj

Originally from Seattle, I now live in Sapporo, Japan, where I write, explore this city, read widely, and ask questions about things that i see as important. I'm also an author, with three novels published ("The Old Man and The Monkey", "Grandfather and The Raven", and "Bear: a story about a boy and his unusual dog"). For more information about my writing, drop by my website, at www.geogepolleyauthor.com.
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