“You staying out here, hon?” the waitress asks through the half-opened door onto the balcony, with a furrow in her brow that has “You’re nuts if you do” written all over it.
“Yes, I will,” I respond, “if I can find a table not too close to a speaker. I think this one will do.” I park myself by the railing, overlooking Front Street. Perhaps they call it Front Street because this is where Poulsbo presents its best Norwegian style in quaint storefronts designed to capture the imaginations and wallets of its visitors.
My waitress Alicia performs her duties well, despite shivering under the gray clouds. Her multiple piercings and streak of violet hair are executed with a confident restraint that renders them nearly conservative. She carries on a friendly conversation with me two minutes at a time whenever she brings more coffee. Her half-closed eyes and ambiguous smile as she displays her neck seem almost genuine.
I’m not the only person braving breakfast al fresco. Across the street a couple sits at a little table outside the coffee shop. Or rather, he sits — she improvises a short, exuberant dance and then remains standing. A minute later she notices me. She’s visibly shocked, then smooths it over as if she saw nothing. Undoubtedly, she thinks I’m a spy — for his wife or her husband.
Yes, that’s them all right — I walked up behind them yesterday on Fjord Drive. I noticed their behavior then: she, playful; he, wary. He looked back at me three times before they both stopped in silence and watched me pass — not answering my “good morning.”
She says something to him, and they leave nonchalantly with their coffees — he, glancing around every two seconds. So, they must have come to Little Norway for the weekend. Getting away from it all — but haunted by it still.
What a shame, I think to myself, that anyone has to feel guilty about loving another person. It’s odd how romance, so often idealized, is nevertheless bound up in the social fabric of mutual responsibility, expectations, and exchange. And somehow, even thwarting the system is part of the system.
As I walk back through the pub to leave, I say goodbye to Alicia. “See you again, soon!” she says, and leans back from the counter towards me as if expecting me to touch her. “Sure,” I smile, and leave — keeping my hands in my pockets. I had left her a good tip — generous, but not obscene.