And there we were in the fancy restaurant, poised to celebrate. I chose the chair that gave me the best view of the other diners, leaving Gareth with only myself or the specials board to gaze upon.
“Soooo,” I said as we waited for the entrees. “How ya feeling about this marriage stuff? Nervous? Nauseous? Totally shitscared?”
Just as the words left my mouth, a Very Old Man behind us leaned forward over his dinner plate and threw up all over the table.
It was silent, discreet, almost dignified. The poor fella was pushing 90, he had on those baggy Old Man Trousers that come up near the armpits and are held up with braces. He was dining with a dour middle-aged woman dressed in black, who was patting her mouth with a napkin like she’d seen it all before. There was a younger blonde woman too, who stood up and shuffled from foot to foot as waitresses appeared with teatowels and dabbed at the deluge.
He sat back in his chair with a faint smile, hooking his gnarled fingers around his braces. Pause. Pause. Lean over. Spew.
And so on, a dozen times over.
It was orange and vile but hypnotic. His motion was so quiet and steady that the entire room, except Gareth with his fortunate choice of seat, had our forks hovering mid-air, unable to tear our eyes from the man and the steady stream he produced.
“What are you looking at?”
“The old guy behind you is spewing on the table.”
“Oh, yep, here he goes again!”
One waitress arrived with empty ice cream tub for the old fella as another deposited Gareth’s entree in front of him. He went a little grey as he looked down at the half dozen barbecued shrimp, sprawled around a chunky puddle of pink dipping sauce.
At that the point the old guy didn’t have much left in the tank. Even the direness of the Dido on the stereo was drowned out by the steady BLURRRK BLUUUURK BLUUURK of the last of his dinner returning to the table.
I rearranged my entree on the plate and decided the staff were handling the spectacle very well. I mean, if someone started hurling in your crowded dining room, you might be tempted to chuck them into the street. But this particular creature was not built for speed. Who knows how many customers he’d anoint during his long journey to the door? It’s important with biological disasters to CONTAIN the danger.
Finally he seemed done and asked for the bill. He plucked a wrinkled envelope from his back pocket and counted out some notes. His strangely silent companions got to their feet as the waitress appeared with their coats.
“You forgot my stick, hen, my stick!” he trilled, “And my umbrella. It’s the tartan one.”
He stood very gingerly. The whole room gave him nervous but sympathetic smiles. “I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours, you know!” he explained to the crowd. “And I ate everything tonight! Everything! Entree, main, dessert! AND wine! It was very very rich!”
It took him ten minutes to walk to the door, but of course Gareth couldn’t see anything, only hearing the slow shuffle of sensible shoes riiiiight behind him.
It wasn’t most romantic evening, but definitely worth it just to watch Gareth hunched over our table in fear, praying the spewnami would spare him.