We were driving in my car. She said, “What’s the name of this restaurant?” It was the kind of question she always asked.
“Pitch….” I said, and then added, “Just to give you a head’s up, its unusual. The idea is that you dine in the dark.”
“You are kidding.” She seemed surprised. I always chose the restaurant and I could tell she was not appreciating this choice.
“No. The idea is that in the dark your other senses are heightened.”
“You are shitting me.”
“No. Seriously. I mean we don’t have to go. I thought it would be interesting.”
“Is this another one of your Yelp discoveries?”
“It gets pretty good reviews.”
“Yeah, we know how that goes. How is the food?
“They say it is pretty good,” I said flatly. I wasn’t going to talk her into it.
“I don’t care about it being dark. I mean I wouldn’t go to a restaurant because it is dark – that seems pretty sophomoric to me. But I wouldn’t care if the food was good. I think that is the point. The food should be good.”
I paused for just a second so she wouldn’t think I cared one way or the other. Everything depended on that. “It is supposed to be good. But we don’t have to go. I would rather we don’t go than go and have you wishing we were someplace else.”
“What the hell. I’ll give it a try. Can’t be worse than the last one you chose.”
* * *
It was quite a process getting to our table. We had to hold hands with our server and then he led us single file through the darkness. He had soft hands. He wasn’t blind, he said, but only visually impaired. Most of the other servers were blind.
Once we settled at our table and got our salad, I said, “it is really dark in here. They weren’t kidding. It is pitch black.”
“I can’t see the table. I can’t see my hands. I think this is stupid.” She was never shy about offering her opinions.
“I kind of like it.”
“I can’t tell what is in front of me.”
“I am surprised at how comfortable it is. I thought I would be on edge.”
“I am on edge. I can’t tell what food is on my plate. Half of what makes food appealing is how it looks. And this way it is all smooshed up.”
She really was on edge. I could hear it in her voice. When she was on edge it was if her voice was on edge. It came out higher and more insistent. More demanding. And that was saying something.
But I was agreeable. I said, “Yeah. I had a bite of a toasted bread crumb like thing and wow that was a surprise cause I wasn’t expecting something hard and crunchy in my salad.”
“… and you don’t have any way to balance portions. I like to put a little tuna on the bread with a little of the onion and have it together but I got one bite that was just a chunk of onion.”
I smiled thinking of that bite. “Yeah I had one that was just all 100% blue cheese.”
“I like to see what I am eating. I don’t think I am unusual in this. I think all meaningful people like to see what they are eating.”
I didn’t argue but I didn’t agree. She always hated that. I said, “I like the surprise but I wish I was more efficient with my fork. I am having a lot of empty bites.”
“You should be used to that. Ha Ha.” She didn’t actually laugh, she just said the words – “Ha Ha” – to tell me that she was laughing. She never actually laughed.
* * *
“People sound loud in here,” she said.
“Yes they do.”
“You can hear everything they are saying.”
“The singing,” I said, “seems particularly loud.”
“Can you believe they are having someone’s birthday here? I mean why? Who wants to have their birthday where they can’t see what they are eating?”
“Oh I suppose it is a way to make their birthday special.”
“That’s stupid… You think I can use my cell phone as a flashlight to see what I am eating?”
“No, you can’t do that.” I said, “it would be disrespectful to all the people here who came here to eat in the dark.”
“Why do they care if I want to see my food?”
* * *
We had finished the main course and were waiting for our dessert. She was on her third glass of wine.
“How is your dinner so far?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I couldn’t see it. Ha Ha.”
“You know,” she said, “it figures you’d pick a place like this one. You are more comfortable in the shadows, aren’t you?”
‘Oh, I don’t know about that.”
“Yes you are. That’s why you are happy to let me take the lead…”
“You do like the spotlight.”
“You mean I am not afraid of the spotlight. … Well you are right about that. I was raised that way. You have to be willing to be in the limelight. Particularly if you are a woman. If you stand back you’ll get run over.” She paused for a minute. “Like you.”
“You think I get run over?”
“I know you get run over.”
I shot back, “if I get run over, its only cause you run me over.”
“How well I know! Ha Ha,” she said. “And you know what?” The acoustics in the dark were so good so she didn’t need to raise her voice, but she did anyway. She wanted to make sure I heard. “I love it! I love running you over.”
“Yes. I know. Like the way you took credit for pitching the Campwhile trustees?”
“That was great. I loved seeing the look on your face. I admit it. I loved it. Like I just kicked your puppy.”
“I had worked really hard on that strategy. I was hoping that that was going to be my ticket to partnership.”
“Boyo, let me tell you something. You better get over this partnership thing. You are never going to be a partner at Atkins Finney. We don’t make partners who live their lives in the shadows.”
“Even if they come up with the pitch that makes the firm fifty million bucks? Cause that’s that what I did.”
“You are so wrong…” She paused. “It was more like $100 million. Ha Ha.”
“And you don’t even feel bad?’
“Huh? Why? You are on my team. You work for me. Your ideas are my ideas. I own your ideas. And frankly you better keep them coming. At least if you want to keep having your annual dinner with me. I don’t keep you around because of your dinner table conversation, chummy boy. Or your choice of restaurants. God, what a depressing place this is. I feel like I am in a morgue. It’s gotten so quiet. It’s like a tomb. Ugggh.
I thought that was as good a place as any to bring this to a conclusion. I pressed the send button on my iPhone. At that signal every light in the place went on at once. Wow! I knew it was coming and I was still blinded.
She didn’t know what the hell was happening.
“What the f***!” She had her wine glass up in mid drink and she was blinking like mad trying to adjust.
I didn’t say anything. I just waited.
“Jesus Christ!” She said. “What the f*** are they doing? God damn them!”
I was blinking too but I could now see around the room. I could tell she could too. I could tell because of the look on her face.
“What the…?” she said.
I quite enjoyed her surprise. They were all there. All of the partners of Atkins Finney. I had invited them. I had told them it was a surprise dinner for her. And it was. Such a surprise.
Such a pleasant surprise…
– Jay Duret