Free Lunch

I left my phone at home again on our evening walk, but the sunset was spectacular, trust me.

We ended up at a waterfront restaurant I love to hang out at. I was just planning on having a drink, watching the sunset, and moving on. This particular restaurant is a favorite for sunset watching because the whole horizon is open to me, and I enjoy watching the sailboats go from one end of the bay to the other.

After I finished my sailing excursion several years ago, I was headed on a bus to Puerto Vallarta from Zihuatanejo. I remember winding along the shoreline, looking at the horizon with a tiny sailboat in the distance, thinking that anyone who happened to be anywhere between Seattle and Zihuatanejo, over the course of the previous year, should they have looked toward the sea at the right time, would have seen my tiny little boat tottering down the coast. That struck me as really profound for some reason. The world is so small. Intimate, in certain ways.

I always wonder where they are going, those little boats on the horizon.

When we arrived at the restaurant, there was just one other guy, probably in his 60’s or early 70’s, drinking Scotch and smoking cigarettes. It seems about right that at 5:30pm, when I’m looking for dinner, the only other person in the place is a middle aged guy drinking Scotch and obviously not looking for dinner.

Waiter comes.

“Quieres orden?” (Do you want to order?)

“No gracias. Ahora, solo quiero sentarme.” (No thanks, I just want to sit.)

The man must have said the same thing I did because the waiter announced to both of us at once “WE RELAX”, with that sort of all-inclusive, universal motion of calm.

As you might already be aware, there are a lot of people on the Malecon in Vallarta trying to get tips. Having lived here for over 3 years now I’ve seen all the shows 100 times and am pretty much over them, but there are some people I go out of my way to help.

When I go running in the morning I sometimes stuff a 500 peso bill in my running belt and if I happen upon a certain guy, I give it to him. I always joke that it’s sweaty and he should dry it in the sun. And when the blind guy with the voice of an angel walks by, he always gets something from me too.

I do this because it’s obvious to me that these guys are not druggies, are not looking for a handout, and do not look at me with dollar signs in their eyes… if they can see me at all. They just can’t work in the traditional sense… no one will hire them… so they do what they can and I try to make sure they always have a little something. I want them to feel supported somehow.

I heard the blind guy coming from a ways off. It’s hard not to. As I said, he has the voice of an angel. I took out a 200 peso bill and put it on my table so it would be ready when he walked by.

He arrived a few minutes later, so I left my table to drop the money in the cup, and when I returned, the guy drinking the Scotch wasn’t at his table. Turns out he’d followed suit and taken a tip to the songbird too. He soon sat down again.

Waiter comes back.

“Quieras una copa mas?”

“Si, porfa. Y una ensalada Cesar. Con camaron.”

They brought me extra shrimp, because they know I share with Ruby. It’s not necessary, but it’s sweet. I feed her some of the shrimp and I notice the guy watching us. He laughs when she takes the food so gently, and I laugh too because it really is kind of funny to watch.

Scotch guy left at some point while we were eating. I didn’t notice, sadly. I would have at least said goodbye. It’s funny how we bond sometimes with people, no words necessary.

After another hour or so I asked for one more glass, to go (I have Netflix to watch, you know) and my check too.

He brings me the wine and tells me I have no bill.

“That’s impossible. I have 3 glasses of wine and a Caesar salad to pay for!”

“No, Emi. It’s paid. Enjoy your evening.”

Think I might know who made that happen.

Looking at you, smoking Scotch guy.




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