The wind outside has a nasty cold bite to it, but the air inside the restaurant is still, warm, stifling from the heat of all the bodies that have found their way inside. Greeted by the girl with the genuine smile. How can someone smile all day long? Maybe you gotta really believe it. Don't think about so much shit. Just be pleasant in your mind.
Maybe she's twenty five, looking young, plump and healthy. Not a bad sign. Customers all look well fed too. Maybe they come here all the time, or at least more often than us. Same booth as last week. Oh look - same server as last time too. May as well order what I enjoyed last time too. Pot roast, mashed potatoes and veggies. Gravy on the side. On a diet, doncha know. This is me being healthy. Good boy.
When it finally comes, the smell of the beef makes my mind wander. We always ate roast beef on Sundays at my mother's father's house. "Poppy's House". It's the taste of family, every time. I'm a lucky man to have a beloved to share my beef with.
Roast beef brings on Poppy, which brings on his daughter, my Mum, Angela. I feel the meat stretch and mash between my teeth, and taste the juices. Hot, tangy, like life blood from whatever animal it used to be. Unlucky it. Lucky me.
Lame Christmas music comes over the restaurant's speakers. Who scat sings "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"? I miss Robert Goulet. Who are they and where do they find this shit? Somebody went music shopping in the bargain bin at Walmart for these winning tunes.
I'm lucky to be eating a hot meal inside a warm, dry place. This time of year, lots of people don't have that. It's getting closer to Christmas.
What was Christmas dinner like for my Mum in her last few years? Even without her teeth in, I bet Mum would have gnawed her way through a tender piece of beef and some yorkshire pudding. A skin and bones woman with short-cropped white hair, rocks alone in her chair. Line of juice running down her chin and into a bib around her neck. If Mum had beef, I bet she'd eat with the rapid enthusiasm and abandon of a little kid.
It's so easy to worry about the future and fret over the past. Was it like that for Mum? People from different families, sitting on the ward next to her, all in their own chairs, and not talking to each other. Everyone's got their physical and mental problems. Some more than others. Not many visitors in the hospital talking to them. Maybe Mum was lonely, if she could remember it. Or maybe she was lucky, and couldn't remember any happy times, so she wouldn't miss them. No memories of having babies a million years ago. Nothing about living in a townhouse, watching TV, or missing her parents. No sitting home alone drinking, being sad and lonely.
Maybe, if she were lucky (and by God she deserved some luck), all she'd remember tied into her little hospital chair was how good that last bite of beef tasted. Nice bite of tasty, juicy meat. Warm air inside the ward. Some weak but vaguely reassuring music on the speaker. Peaceful. Life, just one bite at a time.