So, Wednesday night we went to dinner to celebrate our anniversary. We picked a new Italian restaurant, Lugano, with great reviews and a mouth-watering online menu. Shortly after we sat down, I noticed that a man at a neighboring table looked very familiar. Ryan caught me glancing over at the man’s table where he sat with an older couple.
“The guy at that table looks so familiar to me,” I said.
“I know,” Ryan said as he looked over his shoulder for a second glance, “I saw him as we were sitting down and I swear I recognize him.”
Something insignificant like this happens to people all the time. But when it happens to us, it’s like a pesky scab that probably shouldn’t be picked until it’s bloody and raw, but leaving it alone is simply not an option.
“You know what,” I said a few moments after placing my order for grilled salmon atop basil mashed potatoes, “the old lady is familiar too!”
Ryan looked over at them again, this time studying the old lady, and said, “Yep, I recognize her too…..Who are they?”
Then, we began disecting all the possibilities. Had we met them? Did we like them? Did we owe them money? Everything I felt I knew about them was pretty vague, except for one thing.
“I completely recognize them, but I know that I don’t know them. I mean, I know we don’t know each other.” I said. “I’m confident about that.”
“Yeah, I have the same impression.”
“That makes me think they are some kind of media figures, like we recognize them from TV.”
The man was about thirty, with red-brown hair and a face full of faded freckles. He wore black-rimmed glasses over his wide blue eyes. He looked kind of reporter-y in worn chinos and a button-down blue shirt, rolled at the sleeves. He nodded a lot as he spoke with the older couple.
The old lady had short red hair, and looked pretty grandmotherly in her casual black and white shirt tucked neatly into her high-waisted pants. But, as I looked closer, she was leaning over the table and was engaged in the conversation with the younger man. She looked more managerial than grandmotherly.
I could only see the back of the older man, who seemed to be less-involved in the conversation than his wife.
“I don’t recognize the old guy,” Ryan said as if reading my thoughts.
“Neither do I. The back of his head gives away nothing.”
“Maybe if we could hear what they were saying…”
This introduced the “silent part” of our dinner. Others might describe it as the “eavesdropping part”, but you know, whatever.
The people at the table directly next to us were quite boisterous, which made it really hard to hear what the infamous people were saying, but we managed to catch a few words.
“I heard him say, ‘that editorial I wrote’!” Ryan exclaimed, his ear being closer to their table by about two feet.
“What else? What else?” I whispered.
“They’re talking politics. I just heard ‘Senator Obama’ and ‘CNN’.”
“Okay, he’s a political analyst. But that doesn’t explain who the old lady is….”
Our food was brought to the table, which provided a brief distraction. We started eating and tasting each other’s dishes and laughing about how ridiculous this was that we had spent so much time focused on the other table.
But this friendly chatter only lasted a few more seconds before we were sucked back into the scabby vortex of trying to figure out the identity of people we didn’t know.
“Maybe if we could see the old guy, it would all click,” I said.
“If the old lady catches me staring at her again, she’s going to come over and kill me. I can feel it.”
“Don’t blow our cover, honey. It would really ruin our anniversary dinner.”
“I have an idea. I’m going to go to the bathroom, and on my way back, I can look at the old man.”
When Ryan excused himself, I stared out the window, which was really a way of tilting my head so that my ear was more in their direction. I mean, we’d come this far, why give up now? But I couldn’t hear anything. Someone at the table next to me told a funny story and their raucous laughter totally interfered with my espionage.
Ryan came back, walked past their table nonchalantly and gave a casual, but lengthy, glance at the old man before sitting down.
“The old man’s no help,” he said.
When our waitress came back to ask if everything tasted alright, we decided to stoop to yet a lower level. She had been waiting on their table too.
“Do you happen to know who those people are at that table?” Ryan asked.
“Which table?” she said.
“That one,” I said pointing slyly with my pinkie.
She had her hands on her hips. She pointed her elbow gently in their direction and confirmed, “That one?”
“Yes,” we both said.
“We can’t figure out who they are, and frankly it’s ruining our dinner.”
She smiled and said that she would check with the hostess to see what name the reservation was under.
“Thank goodness,” I said, “Now we can finally resolve this and talk about how much we love each other and how wonderful the last ten years have been.” But Ryan wasn’t listening, he was practically leaning out of his chair to hear what the mystery table was talking about.
The waitress returned after a few minutes and said, “I’m sorry, but they didn’t have a reservation.”
I was going to ask her if she could maybe just possibly, you know, jot down the name on the credit card that pays for the meal, but decided that may be against the law. And my spy work always stays within the bounds of the law.
The other table ordered dessert, and even though we were full, we decided to order some too. After all, it would make it easier to sit around and spy if it looked like we were still dining.
Dessert was terrible. Well, the creme brulee was really good, but we gained no new information about them AT ALL.
They finished up and paid about the same time that we did, and when they got up to leave, Ryan took his napkin off his lap and set in on the table.
“Okay, let’s go.”
“Are we seriously going to follow them home?” (Please say yes, I thought.)
“No, we’re going to see their cars. If he has out-of-state plates or a rental car, we’ll know he’s famous.”
I stood up and began gathering my purse and sweater.
“Hurry, hurry,” he whispered.
“Honey, two-thirds of them have had hip replacements. They’re not going to lose us.”
We casually walked out a few steps behind them and watched the younger man open the car door of a bumper-stickered Volkswagen Jetta wagon with a parking pass hanging from the rearview mirror. He was letting the older couple into the back seat.
“He’s local,” I said.
“That makes no sense,” Ryan said as we made our way to our car.
We got in, watched them drive away, and sat in silence.
We started down the road and began laughing.
“Do you know what’s really sad,” Ryan asked.
“That we wasted our entire romantic dinner trying to figure out the identity of perfect strangers?”
“No,” he said shaking his head, “that we’re never going to know who they were.”