Lunch contained the following immeasurably pleasurable things: a tower of onion rings, the coolest older brother ever, M. coloring in his trains and still letting me squeeze him, a chicken sandwich on the Red Robin menu that I haven’t tried yet (teriyaki chicken; a little too sweet), M. and her stories and stories, L. gamely meeting my family, how much J. makes me laugh every time with that story about the static electricity balls in high school physics, M. tackling me with a kiss, the endless abundance of steak fries. Sometimes a person wants for nothing.

Drunk on the pleasures of task completion, L. drove the freshly-inspected car into the parking lot at an Italian place just on the cusp of West Leb’s Miracle Mile. And while it was something of a case of language exceeding reality–though there is, I suppose, something miraculous about a Jiffy Lube across the street from a KFC–I did come close to overflowing with the sheer pleasure of it all: lunch specials that came with house or caesar salad, the eponymous Lui Lui lager, the late afternoon sun breaking into pieces as it came through the slatted windows and fell across the table from me. I was packed full with it all, so much that I declined the desserts the waitress brought over on a tray, Let me see if I can tempt you.

What if nobody showed up? What if I just sat there and sat there and my watch turned over to 12:20 and then there wouldn’t even be any time confusion explanation anymore and I was just left there sitting all alone next to my dripping umbrella and coat, no book or newspaper even, just me, starkly facing the red curry with tofu lunch special with soup or salad, a spring roll, and a free can of soda? What would I do? I’d already taken a drink of the water she’d placed in front of me while you wait, so does that mean I have to stay? Or could I leave and meander tragically back to my cloffice and dish of familiar lentils through the park, playing sad emo music and running through every last time I’ve been left feeling like the first few pages of Light in August? Then my interlibrary lunch companions arrived at 12:15 on the dot and I heaved a hugely relieved sigh and we all placed our orders and chatted about our families and our libraries and zine readings later and robot culture and oh it was nice, nicer than eating alone.

K. ordered for all of us, like a real gentleman taking care of the table. It was nice. Mom and I both had the chicken marsala–when in Rome, or a train-themed spaghetti restaurant, right?–and K. stuck with the cheesy-buttery pasta. Salads all around, blue cheese on the side all around, like it’s in the genes. I had a glass of the shiraz, K. had a big bold cab, Mom had a fizzy pomegranate cocktail, and they put us in a celebratory mood. We ate and skirted the edges of mother-daughter propriety. Watch me not cross a boundary I said. I won’t cross one the whole time we’re here. My empty glass caused the waiter to materialize. I’d like another please. K. had me pose for a picture against the faux streetcar, hanging off the side like a Rice-a-Roni commercial. There was a lot of laughing, substantial quantities of hamming it up. Then our waiter placed dishes of spumoni ice cream in front of us, and I felt fat and happy and warm and invigorated for an afternoon of shopping for knee socks.

I hauled my maudlin self to the restaurant for our scheduled interlibrary lunch and joined H., J., A., and L. at a table better suited for four. I didn’t want to go on and on about what happened yesterday, so I just said it and got it over with so that my slumping, gloomy posture would make sense. J. proposed a toast, To the best cat around!, and that helped. We proceeded to dish about family, work, and dates until I suddenly realized who that unwashed bearded man in the watch cap shouting into his cellular telephonic device was: Ethan Hawke! There was tittering, and my mood elevated about sixteen stories, climbing, climbing. I also saw one of my classmates, clued her into Ethan, maybe possibly I’ll just confess it by using one of my fingers to point directly at him. Thanks! I had no idea! she whispered as I passed by on my way out. H., A., and L. wrapped up their remainders and we dropped our cash on the table with no squabbling, agreeing that we really should do it again sometime.

The restaurant was packed and nearly everybody was having a drink. Doesn’t anybody work around here? I ordered the number nine mostly because it came with jalepenos and those just make everything better. I ate over two articles, one that proposed a number of sensible techniques that made smart sense to me and another that questioned the political effects of proposing sensible techniques in the first place. And then I felt like my brain was folding into itself–and not in a fun way–so ate the ends of my crusts while tuning out ideas and listening instead to the kid next to me, sounded like a college senior, talking in definitive tones about his Future (combined MBA/law degree from Northwestern, he just needs to review the LSAT prep guide) to an older guy, probably a member of his family. Oh, to be so sure again.

I had just settled in to an open table when I heard the tell-tale bell of an opening door and in walked M.! A visitor from my social world at a workday lunch! I was a little too excited. He sat down across from me and launched into tales of his trivia team and an invitation to join the pool of revolving sixth-men while we looked over the menu and made choices. I ordered the soup and half a sandwich, expecting butternut squash and portobello but ending up with zucchini (the only soup they had left) and chicken club (if it’s going to be different from what I expected, it ought to be uniformly different). We talked work and politics and economies and neighborhoods and dance parties and football and whether Springsteen played halftime of Monday Night Football last night (he didn’t) or if he’s just doing the Super Bowl show (he will). I think I’ve talked about that show four times a week since July, said M., and we took a moment to remember that glorious, glorious night.