Clara groaned as we pulled into the parking lot. “Oh no… we are eating here?”
It had been a very long day, and everyone in the car was out of patience. So, as I parked, I turned and said a bit too harshly, “Clara! You drop that attitude. This isn’t about you. It’s been a long day. It’s way too late. Everyone is hungry. This is where we are going eat. Unbuckle your little brother and come inside.”
She sighed, “It’s just,” she rolled her head backwards, “this place is full of drunk people.”
I blinked at her. It took a few seconds for me to understand what she was talking about. “Oh, you mean, because they sell alcohol here? Clara, okay. I understand. But, they sell alcohol a lot of places we eat at. You just don’t usually notice. People don’t come here to get drunk, but some of them might drink alcohol.”
She shrugged this off and crawled to the back of the minivan to unbuckled her little brother. It took about 30 seconds to get the little man awake, and another 30 to convince him to get out of the car.
As we walked inside, I apologized to Clara for yelling at her.
“It’s okay,” she said, “but I still don’t like that people drink like that here.”
“And I bet most of these people ARE drunk.”
“No, they are not.”
“Well,” she said, “I bet, at least five of them are.”
I glance in the window as we passed, I saw regular people sitting at tables eating regular food, “No, Clara, I doubt that.”
“Okay,” she conceded, “ONE. I bet at least ONE of these people are drunk.”
“No!” I squeezed her hand as we walked through the door. “Just drop it, okay?”
We stood by the door while the waiter ran to find us a clean table. Suddenly there was a burst of laughter in the far corner, and I noticed Clara’s eyes go wide. She stared up at me and jerked her head in that direction.
I shook my head down at her and frowned, “Cut. It. Out.”
We were seated at a table that was far too large in an alcove all by ourselves. The five of us burrowed in together and sipped at our water glasses. The place was crowded, but it was obvious that the dinner rush was over and most everyone else was leaving for the night. We ordered a plate of Nachos and a large pizza, and laid our tired heads down on the edge of the table.
By the time the nachos arrived, Gideon had already fallen back asleep with his head in my lap. He was practically snoring. He would later wake up and ask permission to sleep on the floor. “No…” I would say, handing him over the table to his mother’s shoulder.
The girls, on the other hand, were playing a loud game of 20 questions, making full use of the various beer ads hanging around the room as idea fodder, “Bicycles”, “Pyramids”, “Fresh Mountain Streams”. However, they were far too tired to guess what holiday related mythical creature I was thinking of that was also a rabbit.
Towards the end of our stay the girls asked permission to go to the bathroom, and about ten minutes later they came sulking back to the table. Apparently, a line had formed at the door, and staff had to be sent in after them because they were being loud and refused to unlock the door.
So, I guess in the end maybe Clara was right after all. As we stumbled out the door into the dusky evening I couldn’t help but marvel at my little troop of companions. One passed out on the shoulder of another that was herself half passed out and trying to stay upright. Out in front were two more, arms draped over each other’s shoulders, singing loudly and shouting nonsense into the evening air, just for the joy of hearing it echo back. And myself, smiling faintly, fumbling with my keys, and trying to remember which one started this particular car. Perhaps there really were five drunk people at the restaurant that evening. Drunk on exhaustion. Drunk on love. Drunk on life that has no end and no memory of beginning. All of us tumbling headlong into a dark space in the sky and laughing the whole way out into eternity.