Meeting for Lunch
by Martin Green



I read somewhere that writers shouldn’t start a story with a dream. This normally wouldn’t concern me as I almost never remember my dreams. Still, I had this one just before awakening and it was still vivid in my mind. In the dream I was a young man, not the old geezer I am now. I was sitting in a restaurant waiting for a girl to join me for lunch. Then I woke up and I was disappointed. I had wanted the dream to continue. I recalled Julie Landis, who was the girl I was most involved with during my younger days in San Francisco. She was very attractive, tall, tanned, blonde; what I, coming from New York, then thought of as the typical California girl, although she was from Minnesota. We were both in the advertising business, the ad game, I being a lowly researcher and she a media buyer, which is how we’d met.

Our lunches were rare and she was invariably late, she was always coming from a meeting. When she did arrive at the restaurant every man there turned to look at her, the maitre ‘de jumped to attention and led her to my table and the waiter, who’d been ignoring me, immediately came over to serve us. On my part, as soon as I saw her, my breath became uneven, my heart began racing and I did my best to compose myself. I don’t know what would have happened if my dream had continued. I did know that the feeling of expectation I had at that time of my life was unlikely ever to occur again. So I was disappointed.

I had recently had hip replacement surgery, my years of tennis playing catching up with me. I’d struggled with the pain for almost two years until the surgeon had an x-ray taken and told me I was bone on bone so there seemed to be no alternative. My wife (not Julie Landis) and I lived in a Northern California retirement community just outside of the state capital, Sacramento. The weeks after the surgery were not pleasant. I had to take a lot of pain killers and this may have made my dreams more vivid than usual. The pain killers, according to the warnings, could also cause hallucinations, and I may have had a few of these. I know that one afternoon when I was laying in bed I suddenly saw myself on the tennis court. It was bright sunlight and I was wearing tennis shorts. I looked down at my legs and they were fine. I could run.

Several weeks later, I happened to have lunch with my wife Ellen. After the hip replacement surgery, I had to have physical therapy. I had a morning appointment with the physical therapist. My Health Maintenance Organization was 15 minutes away from our shopping mall, which contained a nice restaurant where we had a coupon for a two-for-one meal. I asked Ellen if she wanted to meet me there. No use wasting that two-for-one coupon. She had nothing on so we arranged to meet in the restaurant at one. The physical therapist gave me a few new exercises to do and said I seemed to be coming along okay. I asked how long I had to do my exercises and he said “Forever,” which seemed a pretty long time. We finished pretty quickly so I reached the restaurant early and took a table where I could see Ellen coming in and studied the menu.

Yes, as the reader expects, I recalled that dream about waiting for someone for a lunch date and the thoughts I’d had after it. Unlike Julie Landis, Ellen was always punctual; she arrived at one. I waved to her and she came over to my table. No change in my breathing or heart rate. It wasn’t that I wasn’t glad to see Ellen, and the thought did occur that at my time of life I’d rather be meeting her than someone like Julie. During my recovery, she’d been a great caretaker. I couldn’t imagine Julie in that role. We ordered lunch and I told her about my physical therapy. We discussed the possibility of going on a cruise later that year. I said we should hold off for awhile and see how my walking was progressing. If I could make it from our cabin to the dining room and from there to the theater we could probably go.

After lunch, Ellen decided she’d do some shopping at the mall. I decided I’d go home. I checked the mail, the usual bills and requests for donations. No phone messages. I briefly considered doing the new exercises the physical therapist had given me, but I didn’t feel like it. Since my surgery, even little outings like going to the HMO and then to lunch still left me tired out. I had a half-finished short story on my computer but I didn’t feel like doing that either. I sat in my recliner and turned on the TV to see what horrible things had happened during the day. But I didn’t really watch. Once again I thought of my lunch dream and of running on the tennis courts. A lot of things in my life were over. I knew I should be satisfied with the way things were, but I couldn’t help it. All I could feel at that particular time were regrets.


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