We entered the restaurant laughing. I can't remember why but I remember the laughter clearly, my hand on my stomach and my eyes watering. The hostess asked if we had a reservation and then asked for a name and Deborah said, "Veronica" which is her Starbucks name and that made me laugh harder. It was obvious that the hostess did not find us charming and she probably thought we were drunk. I wanted to say, "We haven't had a drop to drink!" but she interrupted, "And the last name?" I turned to Deborah who was staring at the woman, eyes wide in obvious panic, "Uh..."
She was stumped and, though I could have helped, all I could do was watch and laugh. Deborah said, "Uh, no one's ever asked for my last name..." I wanted to point out the ridiculousness of that response because it's not like she's Cher or Madonna or Beyoncé but I was mesmerized by the mess of a conversation. Finally, Deborah's shoulders slumped in defeat and she said with a sigh, "It's Goldstein." The hostess put her hands together as if in prayer and said, "No more questions or answers." She was done with us and sent us away with a server.
This was our last night together and we wanted to splurge a little so I decided to have the quail. As we sipped our wine, we talked about the first time I'd eaten quail.
Deborah: "Where did you have it? Did you like it?"
Vikki: "Well, my dad owned a bar and he had an 'Eat What You Killed' party and I had quail there. I did like it."
Deborah: "Back up. 'Eat What You Killed' party?"
Vikki: "It was a like a potluck and people brought things they'd killed like quail and pheasant and squirrel and deer and rabbits and raccoon."
Deborah: "Oh my god."
Vikki: "I'll tell you one thing - raccoon is tough. Or maybe it was poorly prepared. Actually, I think that might have been the issue because I'm not sure they got all the fur off."
Shortly after that, our food arrived and there were two tiny little quails on my plate. I had forgotten how small a quail is and I was daunted at the task of gracefully deboning the two tiny birds. It required all my concentration - slicing and poking and digging around to avoid all those bones. It was delicious but it was a lot of work and I was afraid I would grow weary before actually feeling full. I had to rest between wrestling with them and, during those breaks, I had to figure out a way to eat my greens and pea tendrils without having the latter dangle from my mouth or snake up my nose.
Dinner suddenly seemed perilous.
As Deborah ate and drank with ease, I regretted my birds and tendrils.
I kept my eyes on the plate the whole time, conversing but not making eye contact. Then, at one point, I looked up and that brief moment of inattentiveness cost me.
Vikki: "I swallowed a bone."
Deborah: "Really? Are you okay?"
Vikki: "Well, it was a substantial bone. Like maybe an entire wing or something."
Deborah: "And? Are you okay?"
Vikki: "Yeah. I think it went down lengthwise which seems like a good thing. Cross ways would be worse, right?"
So, I drank a lot of water and gulped aggressively to make sure it went down and then I drank my wine and hoped for the best.
Later that night, we sat on the roof of our hotel and drank bourbon and I said, "If I turn blue tonight, remember the quail bone. But I'm hoping I don't die in my sleep." Deborah said, "Me too. It's so hard to get an outside line on that phone in our room."
And then we laughed until we couldn't breathe.
When you find someone that laughs at the same things you do, even when they are the darkest of things, that's when you know you've found a true friend and hold on tight.
Note: Any inaccuracies in the reported conversations are due to oxygen deprivation from the quail bone in my throat and/or the bourbon.