I was recently out at a restaurant for a friend’s birthday. There were about 10 of us pressed onto two benches either side of a picnic style table which rarely makes for smooth physical negotiation, especially with legs as long as mine. I knew fewer people than I didn’t and it was the first time I’d eaten out since starting a startlingly stark and outright anti-social elimination diet for a long-running digestive problem, which meant ordering my own sorry little dish while everyone else joyously leapt into round after round of really saucy looking sharing plates. It also happened to be my first night in Mallorca and, having landed at 4pm that afternoon, I was feeling rather discombobulated by the sudden displacement. Moving, and moving countries no less, doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that happens at 4 o’clock of an afternoon with dinner at 7. Surely it’s a longer-term process? And aren’t you meant to go and register first or something? Am I allowed to have dinner in my new country before I register? All in all, I wasn’t on form. Nowhere near it, in fact. No, to be accurate, I was feeling like a right self-conscious fish out of water. A lone old lemon. A long silly sausage.
You know the feeling? You feel out of sync with the rhythm of proceedings, swimming against the flow of the evening.
Towards the end of the meal, the guy sitting across from me announced he had to leave. He stood up to hug the host goodbye and I stood too and I don’t know why. But I’m standing now and no one else is and I’ve extended my hand for him to shake but he only has eyes for his friend, the birthday boy, who’s come over to hug him, and the birthday boy’s girlfriend’s standing now as well and the three of them are having a moment and I’m the weird interloper on the fringes with my hand dangling out into no man’s land and the picnic bench has me pinned in awkwardly against the table so I can’t even stand up straight but slightly bent off balance instead and I can’t sit back down either because I’ve committed to this handshake damn it and god I feel like a lemon sausage fish, and I’ve probably been in this off-kilter position with my unrequited hand outstretched for about 40 seconds now which might not sound like a lot on paper, but you try it and see how it feels, and oh good I’ve forced a weirdly contorted smile on my face in case anyone’s watching this classic bourgeois dinner party faux-pas, and I happen to look to my left and lock eyes with my friend’s 21 year old son and in that moment I understand he’s witnessed the whole little vignette and I feel even sillier for having been caught out by someone 17 years my junior, as if I’m old enough to know better, as if I ought to be beyond feeling silly now and suddenly I’m not only feeling silly, I’m feeling silly for feeling silly.
And as if to hush my maddening self-reflexive silliness the wise 21-year-old offers a kind smile up at me which seems to say, “it’s ok old sausage fish, we all have nights like this.”
Yes, we all have nights like this.
With love and sausages,