We have to stop meeting like this. People at IKEA here in Conshohocken may get the wrong idea. They think we come for the 99-cent breakfast special, with all the coffee you can drink for free if you’re here by 10 am.
How many times have we seen each other? Three, four . . . ? You sat at the same table with that other young woman, the one who spoke very little, if any, English, who I thought was your sister. She was your mom.
She came with you to “see me” last week, you say. After spending several weeks visiting from your homeland of Venezuela, she wanted to say goodbye to me, that Greek guy you often see meditating at a table by the window. You brought her to IKEA weeks ago . . . that’s when we were introduced. She and I had so much in common despite the language barrier. Remember how we both left the restaurant with half a dozen each of the free saltines, the crackers. What compassion we shared — your mom was going to feed them to the birds, while I was going to mix them with bird feed for chickens and my “Sombitch” Rooster back home.
And what did you do? You used seven of those little “half & half” milk and cream cups as your morning beverage, just adding a little coffee for taste. Java is java, no matter how it’s mixed, I always say. Cup after cup . . . free is free, right?
But today, we met alone. Except for Charlie, our 80-year-old friend at a window seat three tables away. And lets not forget the dozen or so other breakfast diners, or the two white-haired women we met at our rendezvous spot in the “As Is” section of IKEA. One was 82. Was she the one I asked if she had a drinking problem? Or was it the other? We last saw them wandering through store, looking for Swedish-designed furniture and goods and whatnots.
And how can we ever forget the “throw.” It was red, a favorite color. (Yours or mine? Can’t remember. It kinda matched the coat you were wearing, though.) I will never forget what you told me when I said to you that I would buy it, If the price was under two dollars.
You grabbed the white label, the one that tells what the object is made of, as well as the washing instructions. You held it close to your face. Glaucoma runs in your family, I remember you had said, and I guess you were trying to see the price tag more clearly.
Next you offered the words I was hoping against hope to hear you say:
“Yes . . . it’s only a dollar, ninety-nine.”
My heart ascended. My joy had no bounds.
But, too soon you finished your fat-free yogurt sundae on a cone ($1 for the “softee.” Two hot dogs also went for only a buck!). We approached the self-serve aisle and I began the purchasing process, only to learn that you, a Venezuala-raised and Spanish-speaking Señora (with English as a second language) had to show this native-born, English-speaking, American with multiple college, graduate and professional degrees, how to properly use the coin slot. You even offered 11 cents to help pay the tax, but being the gentleman I am, I turned it down, having never accepted charity before from such a lady as yourself.
Now, you may ask “when and where shall we meet again?”
Breakfast. Same place. Same deal. Won’t have to search far for such good company, at such low prices. Just look in my back yard. I’ll be there with the rest of the regulars.
For more, see: