This room stinks of that old elegance that made a lot of sense in the 70's; naugahyde that squeaks in big booths sunken into the walls. The dim light would make a lot more sense if I was having a torrid affair or plotting some sort of crime instead of just sitting waiting to meet a client. No, I am here in the shadows nursing an iced tea and a salad that looks like a burger had a seizure and the toppings slid off.
The music seems to be coming out of the mouth of a chipped wooden owl on the far wall. The best I can tell is that the easy listening music has never stopped being piped in since before some people driving by outside were born. The slop comes from that crappy wooden statue facing me with its almost judging, lazy painted eye. Thirty minutes ago I wished I could glue all my stale giant croutons into a little ark or brick and hurl it at the tired old bird's red painted mouth. Now I want to rip it off the wall or just leave.
I think the old man that went to the next booth when I got here sunk into some naugahyde quicksand. I have not even heard a peep in I don't know how long from his little shadowy corner, not even the clink of his knife on his plate any more. The couple kissing behind me when I walked in have fallen into some soft corner as well. There is a stain on my napkin. Just saw it. It is almost shaped like a horseshoe.
My wife makes me take pictures. I am not talking sweet tourist shots or pics of food to show to relatives. No, she makes me make artifacts, alibis, proof. It drives me crazy sometimes. My lettuce has wilted now, drowned in blue cheese dressing. A sad little death. It is 2:27 in the afternoon on this Tuesday (my phone thankfully has a strong little light). I have been waiting since 1:30. I am starting to think that I am being stood up.
She makes me shoot photos at times like this. She wants time stamped little images shuttled off to her while she waits at home whenever I am away from the office. It was cute at first, sort of charming and I assumed more playful teasing. That was 3 years ago.
I think the old man just passed gas. At least I know he is still here and I am not alone. She is surely already tapping a finger on a countertop waiting as is. It is too dark. This room, this place, this crappy restaurant, it was the idea of Sarah. She is a client. I am that antiquated thing in this digital age you see. I am a talent agent. Sarah is one of those people that wait tables and once in a while get a spot dancing in front of toilet rolls in a commercial for 10 seconds then back to the grind and the dream.
Sarah loves to wear sexy boots that go above her knee. She wears lipstick that is deep purple even when she is in flip flops. Sarah has nails painted in crazy colors. Sarah has eyes that shine when you talk to her. Sarah is my client. Sarah also is 50 and 3 times divorced. My wife would make me take pictures even if my client was a break dancing poodle or a cat.
Sarah kissed me once. Once. Her lips lingered on mine a bit too long as we said a professional good bye. She caught me off guard, I swear I saw a tiny reflection of me as she zoomed in for it. The tiny tingle of something soft was just instinct. When I kissed back it was like some reflex. And she had those boots. I mean I am not dead. But that was the one time, the one little island. She is late. She chose this place. I can't take a shot and have big news to tell her so I really can't leave here. I am screwed.
The music now has crackled away into static. A loud pop. Now it is back. So many small details to observe when there are none. I have other clients. Against my stomach's protests I have elected not to have any appetizer, main course or dessert now. My last 3 croutons are pushed in a corner together with the white napkin laid over them. This little diorama will be my companion till she gets here. I will know her from the click of those high heels, or the smell of that perfume. She also has one or the other or both. I swear I can spot the sound of her boots at lunch time on approach like a specially trained dog by now. The news is something she may love or may not like. I really am not sure. Once she wore gloves, soft satin, like in old films, she ran them through my hair from behind thinking she could surprise me, trick me, get a rise out of me, but I knew. That day I had to tell her that the roles in the dog food commercial and soap opera she tried out for had called to turn her down.
Another ten minutes have gone by. My wife just sent a text. No words, just a bunch of letters. It may be a scramble like on a game show or her anger this time. I really don't know what to make of it. She just sent it again. Same odd sequence. I mean if I shoot a pic here it will come out like the lens cap was on during an eclipse. Well, that is an exaggeration but you don't know how she gets. She has me send pictures to prove I am where I said I would be. Alone. She wants me to send pics of things too, lamps, candles, menus, proof. She sometimes sends me pics too. Things. I have to guess their significance fast. Or else.
The waitress looks like a walking shadow. Kind of a relief to see her face emerge as she nears the table. Not that it is one of those that is a light or anything, her simple tired features withered a little when I said I was not ready to order. Her uniform looks like it is from a time capsule from old photos. She looks about 26. Something about those eyes though. Hmm. A presence even behind that tiredness of someone who hates their job in a slow place. Wonder if she sings..
More iced tea , sure. Why not. It tastes less like water from a rusty tap now anyway.
The old man has quieted again. I keep wondering about him, listening. Really just nice to know someone else is here. The couple must have left. The quiet footsteps of something either saccharine or you know what. It is now to the point I usually would have left, angrily burned some tire rubber and even left a nasty message. I could cancel her. I really could. Could stop contact and leave. The worst part of sitting too long is not so much the cramps for me, but the nagging sense that the body needs to move. Another text. A single word. No clue. A plate just broke somewhere in the kitchen, heard it. No, I really don't, not at all. Fifteen more minutes. That is it.
Sarah. That kiss. Let me elaborate on that little thing. I had not eaten all day. My lack of sleep surely factored in too as I remember. She swept a polite gesture into something soft, plush, the smell of leather against her citrusy perfume and like a twitching finger my body responded. That is all there was or is. It lasted no longer than it takes to pour cream in your coffee. And no one knows but us. There is no us.
Wait. I hear wooden pegs on the ground. Approaching. Don't smell the perfume though. Can't quite...She is coming this way. Glasses. Indoors. Fast steps now. She is coming closer. Long coat. Closed. Red lips now emerging in the bit of light slightly curled .....there is that instinct again..that lizard..that cave man stomach is curdling. Boots. Conservative. A bit scuffed. Not the drama Sarah usually brings wrapped around her pale legs, not the familiar steps of my wife either. She is standing at the edge of my little booth now. She is just standing there. Now she is walking away.
A photo. My phone is buzzing to tell me of it. It is a picture of me. I am wearing the same shirt. My expression is accurately annoyed and yet that little bit of hope or whatever it is called. But that can't be.... My hair looks the same. The guy must not be me. She must have shot a pic of another guy in a white shirt with short graying black hair in a dimly lit room. It has no time stamp. She must have cut that off. That can't be me. He looks so timid and lost, a few inches shorter than I am. Yes. That is one of her little tricks. Look at that poor bastard. He is this little melting candle of a man.
The old man is making some faint noise now. Like a gurgling creek. Ah, now I hear a fork on a plate. This is so strangely comforting right now. A few more sips of this rusted pipe tasting iced tea and then I am gone. Another picture is coming.......it is of me again...alone...
That is enough. There is some money on the table. The room is now shrinking behind. Good day solitary old man and your meat and bread. Good bye shadows and stink and a wasted 78 minutes. I just looked over my shoulder and could swear I saw the waitress crying with something in her hand. Don't want to know. The kitchen smells putrid as I am passing it and its vapors and stink. Ok it is not that horrid but you waste time under 3 kinds of stress and see how that lunch tastes and looks in a dull dank room someone else sent you to. I see the cars are wet from some little freak summer rain shower. There are little beads of water like that timid weak dew in June mornings here from the fog that burns to death at each noon till the real heat comes.
The fog in June is a coward that way. The clouds are already evaporating. Pathetic. Now it just will be more humid as that heat comes right back. I must fight the urge to hit 80 mph on this little ancient alley of a street. The sun is back out and the tiny meek blob of cloud like today has little time left before completely burning away. My phone is buzzing another text or picture. I am, for now, for once, immune. I will swerve at trash cans until the light and when I have to turn back into the main streets again. The old man must be a masochist to eat at that place. That thought is now too burning away clean, wasted. I could hit a can and crush it, bend it into something else, at least in the impact, the bend and release as I pull my broken bumper clean away.
News is always good. The world will always spin on the same axis and the seasons will forever fit like sweaters on shoulders, and photos in frames. There is no chaos Virginia, Sarah or Elaine. Yes honey, things are fine.
Jeremy Hight is a new media artist/writer and locative media artist/writer. He invented spatial locative narrative in the first locative narrative project "34 north 118 west". He has a project shortlisted by the European Space Agency to trigger text and image works as the astronauts pass above key cities on the earth. He has lectured about his work at conferences at MIT and overseas. A look at his career to this point and reading landscape spaces is in Leonardo and he is co-editing an upcoming edition on 3d immersive visualization. He has shown many text and image works including "Carrizo Parkfield Diaries" (with Sindee Nakatani and Christy Macphee) in the Whitney Artport archive. His sound art is currently showing in several museums internationally and he is editing the first definitive book on locative media.