Anemic city light. The sun is much too pale for a September morning, and cold gusts of air sweep down the sparsely peopled streets. It visibly chills the potted cypress trees on the patio where we are waiting to eat.
Baby daughter is sitting next to me, miraculously not-crying in her highchair (and I don’t use the word “miraculous” lightly). Simon the dog is tied to the gate, serenely watching strangers pass (all of them look first at my gorgeous daughter, and then down to Simon in his bowtie, and then back up at me, smiling gratefully for the unexpected pair of cuteness, and me as the presumed First Cause).
The food arrives to our "oo's" of delight. The flatbread is good-sized and crisp, topped with shaved chicken and drizzled with basil; the pasta alla vodka is actually plump cheese tortellini swimming in ripe-red sauce (we are not vegan today). We immediately begin eating; I gush about the explosive flavor and the crispiness of the flatbread, even forgiving the unforgivably cold weather in an act of pleasure-induced magnanimity (“it’s not so bad in the sun,” I say, inexplicably). My husband offers me a forkful of his, insisting that we come here more often, and we convince ourselves that maybe next time the baby will be good for a babysitter (we tried this last weekend, and she was so hysterical that we had to rush to my brother's apartment before we were even seated).
But even in our gastronomic ecstasy, we don’t take pictures of our food. I can't explain my aversion to photographs these days, except maybe that they seem to cheapen the inner world with excess externalization. We can't connect on such literal terms! Life is not a bland reportage, but a unweeded garden, explosive with complex interpretation. That's why "beauty will save us." Because the beauty of the non-literal doesn't prune the unruly foliage of reality. We can interact with beauty by using our empathetic and interpretive brains, an impossibility in the world of social media photography.
So I resist the selfie, the pictures of food. Sometimes I even worry about the pruning potential of words. But I think that is unfounded, as long as words don't become idolatrous (if they point to a thing, without being that thing). If I can tell you how I feel without you taking me solely as the sum of my words, if someone can say they are religious or a democrat or gay without you letting that word define them. If you can say you are religious or a democrat or gay without letting it define you. Idolatry of words and concepts is the degradation of humanity.
But I am not here to muse about the nature of language and human identity. I am here to eat creme brûlée, which they no longer serve at this location, which exasperates my husband, who lives for this kind of thing.
I don't share my thoughts; he pays the bill. We walk back up the street, swallowed by the sickly white light- fall feels more like a mismatched spring.