scratched on napkin
flight of napkin
can’t see you
Name me the reasons why I should have stayed with you.
On and off, up and down; we were like that for too long.
A week has passed; I’m at a restaurant and thinking of you
Napkin away the crumbs on my mouth and freeze...
I’m staring at your name written on my napkin -- where are you?
The name of the Rose
The waiter left, taking the order, and the plate of pie that was already on the table. it was uneaten and that made me notice things. the table was full of things, actually. entrees, desserts, drinks. there wasn’t much there that was left out of the menu, and I suspected that those excluded were just removed before.
the is tall, with long hair and fashionable clothes. I can’t see much from behind, but I can guess she is in her thirties. she bearly touches any of the food. all she does is look at the napkin that is spread in front of her. there is some kind of intricate diagram on that. a flow chart.
the lady traces her finger carefully , moves through arrows and squares, puzzles things, then goes back to this square or that. when the waiter arrives with the new order, a mouth-watering chocolate mousse, she consults the diagram, pays in cash, tips as well. the waiter asks, and takes something else off the table again. out of habbit, he asks will there be anything else, or will she want something more, which sends her again to consult the diagram. she reaches a certain square and orders something. completely oblivious. she orders, pays, gets food, sends food, she tips well, I think, cause the guy, is so happy.
this goes on and on, a parade of food is marched on and off the table, with little more than a casual nibble here or there.
I am watching this. this is insane! I can’t leave. she seems to be trapped in this flowchart loop thing. but I don’t dare disturb this. what if I make things worse? in the end, everybody has a right to both privacy, and to be weird.
finally it’s eleven, my cup of coffee is ancient history, and the stools on all the tables are sitting upside down on the top. the waiter approaches, and hesitantly tells her that it’s last call. she consults the diagram yet again, and asks the waiter “what is my name?” to which the guy replies: “Rose Ellison”. the lady traces her finger down the bottom of the napkin. I can’t restrain myself any longer, so I stand and peek. the square she points to goes : ” enquire what is your name” . I look above that; an arrow and a square: “you’re informed it’s closing time”.
finally, below the question of the name is a branching point. another two arrows: ” if your name is Rose , pay, tip and go home ” the other: “if waiter doesn’t know name, or name is not Rose, then demand to see an appointed representative of the Mazda car dealership. do not leave until a member arrives.”
the lady leaves. she doesn’t take the napkin. but there are more like it, to be sure.
Derek 214 Sutton Place
Just a crumpled napkin retrieved from an old briefcase from a time when women carried briefcases instead of purses to appear professional. Flattened, crumpled, thrown in the garbage, retrieved, crumpled and flattened again, tucked in an old hardcover copy of Couples by John Updike. Tiny. The words printed neatly in blue ballpoint. Nearly dissolved by a ring of chardonnay poured from a small bottle 35,000 feet above somewhere between Chicago and Toronto.
You had the window seat 16A but offered to switch when I leaned over too many times to catch a glimpse of land below I had never been above before. You helped me get through customs, my first time, you a pro. Fate had us in the same hotel. You for just that one night. We shared a cab downtown and you offered to show me the city. We checked in then you took me to dinner atop the CN tower. After we walked hand in hand up Yonge Street in the falling snow where we stopped at a native arts store and you talked me into buying an Inuit soapstone bird. It is on my mantle today.
I took a bath and carefully hung up my suits for the week. When sleep did not come, I reached into my coat pocket for the napkin. Then fresh. Knocking on the door softly, soundlessly, halfway hoping you would not hear. We made love. Room 214 Sutton Place March 6, 1989. So gentle, kind and caring. I left while you were sleeping. Many many lifetimes ago.
If I had bothered to ask your last name, I could have googled it now, searched you out, to tell you your daughter gave birth to a baby boy early this morning after extended labor. Knowing her story, she named him Yonge.
Names and Memories
Felicity stepped into a small diner, the air warm and welcoming from the frigid outdoors. Her hands slowly thawed as she waited for someone to seat her. She blew on her red fingers and rubbed her hands together, trying to warm them. Finally, a hostess arrived. “Hello,” She greeted Felicity.
“Hi, table for one please.” Her teeth chattered as someone else opened the door and a blast of icy wind blew inside.
“Follow me.” The hostess led her to a table holding two seatings. She placed the menu in front of Felicity, flashing a smile. “Someone will come take your order.” The woman hurried off.
Felicity grabbed the menu, her fingers tingling as they warmed. Her coat was still snug on her body and her scarf was still set in place around her neck. Her blue eyes scanned the list of foods that filled the menu.
A middle aged man came up with a notepad in his hand. His blonde hair was smoothed back neatly and his green eyes studied her intently. “Hi, I will be taking your order tonight.” He murmured. A flicker of recognition seemed to spark in his eyes. “You look like you could use a hot chocolate, Fe-Miss.”
Felicity’s face grew warm, “That sounds good. Thanks.” Her heart picked up as he turned to get her a hot chocolate. She was sure he almost said her name, but how could this waiter possibly know her? The line he had said also sounded familiar, yet she couldn't place why. Felicity hadn’t been to this small town in years, everyone had moved on with their lives. Several people she ran into didn’t recognize her.
The waiter arrived with a small napkin and a mug with steaming hot chocolate. Felicity had slipped of her coat and shed her scarf and gratefully accepted the steaming hot drink. The napkin slipped to the table and she placed her mug on it.
“What would you like to eat?” He pulled out his notepad again. His green eyes looked at her expectantly, something hid in them, a warning of some sort.
“Uhm, I’ll have the turkey club, please.” She handed him the menu. His fingers brushed hers, sending tingles up and down her arm. Felicity released the menu quickly and pulled her hand into her lap.
After the waiter left Felicity grabbed her hot chocolate and slowly sipped the warm liquid. It soothed her dry throat and helped her shivers to stop. The napkin floated onto her plate from the bottom of the mug. She set her mug down and picked up the small, flimsy napkin.
As she turned it around and around anxiously, her eyes caught a scrawled word on the napkin. She stopped, straightened it, and then smoothed the napkin. Her eyes squinted at the small writing in the corner, she studied it several seconds. Finally, she was able to comprehend what it was. Her heart raced as she stared at the little scrawled name. "Lawrence." The words caught in her throat as she whispered them.
An image of the waiter standing before her flashed to her mind. His eyes seemed to hold an urgency, a warning. She abruptly stood, her chair toppled over. Several spectators watched as the chair fell to the ground with a thud. Felicity fished in her jeans pocket to grab a few dollars and placed them on the table. She rushed to the door of the building, forgetting her coat and scarf. Her hand grabbed the door and she swung it open, pushing herself into the cold winter air.
Felicity rounded the building to an alley and hid in the shadows. If the waiter was right, then there was a man named Lawrence sitting inside the diner. The bitter wind cut around Felicity, she shivered hard and stood in the shadows. The diner door jingled open and then shut, footsteps sounded her direction. "She couldn't have gotten far." A gruff male voice spoke.
"I'm sure she's somewhere sir." Another masculine voice piped up.
Footsteps sounded towards where Felicity hid. Her body shook as she tried to stay still and her eyes peered into the darkening night. Heavy winter boots clomped in front of her then slowly seemed to grow more distant.
She held her breath as their voices drifted away. Someone touched her shoulder from behind. Felicity jumped and muffled a scream.
"Shhh!" A soft male voice warned. "It's just me." He turned her around gently.
"Oh." Felicity shivered harder than before, her teeth chattered. It was the waiter who took her order. He handed her the coat and scarf she left inside. "Thanks." She slipped them on.
"Here's your turkey club." A small smile formed on his lips. "I hope you enjoy it, Felicity."
Once he said her name, the memories rushed into Felicity's mind. "Travis?" Her heart pounded hard.
"Yeah." He rubbed her shoulders helping warm her. "Since you didn't pick up on my warning line, the only way I could let you know Lawrence was there was by discreetly writing it on a napkin to you."
She smiled. "Thanks for that." She clutched the box with her food.
"Stay safe, Felicity." His voice grew serious. "You know how bad Lawrence is and what he's after."
Her smile faded. "I know." She turned and walked into the night. "Thanks." She whispered. The name written on the napkin might have just saved her, for now.
She chose the place. I was anxious to see what that place said about her? I followed the crowd inside, all of us hurrying in, and out of a steady October rain. I paused just inside the doorway, disappointed to find the cafe trendy, and very busy. Periodic laughter arose from fern draped booths as young business people on lunch breaks vied for the attention of pretty co-workers, or new bosses. The hum of wordless voices dulled the persistent tinkling of silverware on china, while gentle currents pushed downward by overhead fans circulated the rich aromas of perfectly prepared foods. Aproned servers rushed past me with patchworks of culinary art in the balance. There were spaces at the bar, so I sat and ordered a coffee from an unsmiling, pony-tailed and unisexed attendant. I glanced at my phone. It was not my kind of place, but I would have met her at a dentist’s office if she’d asked me too... and I was five minutes early. Perfect! I looked towards the door, my heart’s queue to begin a slow, agonizing beat as it impatiently waited.
I had first noticed her at the coffee shop this morning, or rather I had noticed that she was noticing me at the coffee shop this morning. She looked out of place here, like she belonged in a Starbuck’s, or some place even fancier, buying some coffee with a fancy name, double vanilla latte grande, or something like that. And she was certainly not the type of woman who usually paid me any mind, not that the ones who did weren’t pretty, but this one was striking, with long auburn hair, green eyes, and firmly sculpted legs which protruded seemingly forever from beneath a fashionable skirt that some highly paid designer had consciously tailored just to show off their like... and that designer deserved every penny made, in my humble opinion. When our eyes met, she had smiled.
Swimming was the last thing on my morning agenda, but that’s where I found myself as that smile lifted me from the constraints of gravity and swam me upwards through the air, high above those other blue collars seated so heavily in the shop’s metal backed chairs, or padded booths. Suddenly unnaturally shy, my eyes left hers to concentrate on the coffee steaming up from my cup and onto my glasses.
Sensing a presence I assumed to be hers I looked up, but could see nothing through my fogged lenses, “I’m Candice,“ a friendly voice stated, “I saw you from over there, and I liked your smile. I have to be at work, but if you can, I would love it if you could meet me at noon, for lunch?” My tangled tongue said nothing. The click of her heels pulled at my heart as they passed away. Through the lifting fog on my glasses appeared a napkin lying on the table; “Cecil’s” the print on the napkin stated, “3rd and Main, Louisville, Ky.”
The barstool was uncomfortable, the brass foot-rest too far from my feet. I checked my watch again. It was a quarter after twelve. I had been stood up. Disappointed, but not surprised, I laid a five-spot on the counter for my coffee and shuffled my way to the door. A misting rain still undulated on the breeze as I crossed at the Third Street intersection. Looking up, I did a double-take as I passed an overhead sign; antique, and weather worn. “Cecil’s” it said. I pulled the wrinkled napkin from my pocket. “Cecil’s,” it said. I turned, recrossed the street, and looked at the window of the cafe I had just left.
I ran back across the road, and raced inside. Cecil’s was a genuine 1950’s hamburger joint, warm, and smelling like heaven. A genuine Wurlitzer blasted country-blues from the corner while a waitress carried Coke’s with straws served in frosted green, glass bottles.
I described my date to the freckled, teenaged waitress. “Yea, she was here... didn’t order anything. Drank her Coke and left... she looked really sad. Great tipper though!”
I wadded up the napkin, and pushed it through the little swinging door on the stainless steel trash can, the napkin ending it’s life cycle right back in the same cafe where it belonged. The rusted spring on the old fashioned, screen entry door screeched as I pushed myself through on my way out, and back into the cold rain where I belonged. I looked up at the sign once more before stepping into the downpour.
“It was Cecil’s, you moron, not Cecilia’s.” With that, I lowered my miserable head and stepped into the miserable rain.
on a satin napkin
at a wedding
her only shot
at leaving a signature
‘Fiercely Fabulous’ red
a toast to
for the men
who left her
but what is makeup
but a fallacy
worn to please
The table we swarmed was a mess, but we took it anyway. I swept most of the napkins, or should I say serviettes onto one of the trays, except for one that looked like it might still be usable. I dropped it into my pocket for future reference. The pub we descended on in Cambridge village was used to the comings and goings of the students from the nearby university, and crazy busy because exams were done, and we wanted to celebrate our freedom at least until the next set of finals fraught our world with sleepless nights of revision and study.
I hadn’t the heart to tell my mates this was the last one for me. The telegram in my pocket called me home. Father was ill, not expected to survive and as the eldest son, I was no longer free to pursue any studies. I watched the door, and the constant revolution of patrons. The burly man at the door, made sure the balance was maintained. Only as many eager drinkers as there were seats available. He cut groups into singles and pairs with the ruthless precision of reconstructive surgeon repairing a disastrous genetic defect.
My foray into the world of literature and writing was coming to an end. The Earl of Errol was about to breathe his last.
I snorted as I thought of the napkin I’d placed in my pocket. None knew me as an Earl’s son. I’d been raised in New York City by my mother, who fled with me early in her marriage. The romance of being swept off her feet by a handsome Scot twice her age with an intriguing accent, rapidly gave way to a cold manor house on the remote moors of northern Great Britain. No fun anywhere as she told me every time, she could slip the reminder into our rare phone calls.
I would have the moors now. They had never divorced, only a generous stipend deposited into her account each month made it clear my father had any care for me at all. I could have the moors and become a hermit dedicated to my pen and the words it drew from my heart.
Again, the napkin crossed my mind. What had caught my eye as I swept it into my pocket? The itch to pull it out and look was as incessant as the clatter of dirty dishes drowning in the sink of the old kitchen behind the long oak counter where the wizened gray elders of the town perched on chairs like cats ready to pounce at a mouse hole.
The waitress swung the pile of trays, with the mountain of serviettes and used utensils onto her hip.
“I’ll be right back to wipe that up and take your order.” Her pert lips were cherry red, and her curly black hair swung saucily across her shoulder blades as her hips swayed hinting at a sensuous delight awaiting her lover.
“Just bring us a Guinness each,” Terrance called after her.
“Six Guinness, Tommy,” she called, her voice shrill above the din of dozens of different conversations.
I found myself smiling at the boisterous banter, both beside me and beyond. I was ready to retreat, if I could find my notebook, the one I knew I’d left behind the last time I was here, then it would be off the stone walls of Castle Errol and the windy heather strewn moors close to the Loch bordering the estate.
As the evening wore on, we stood in the back tossing darts at the board betting on various scores, and the skill of the next throw, and I finally had to go. I mean my bladder put an emergency call out, and I sought the loo and the comfort of a cubicle. Finally, an opportunity to check the napkin. The image of an infant’s dirty bottom slid in front of my bleary, beer confused brain as I drew it out of my pocket, a bit worse for wear.
And written across the pale yellow flower embossed tissue was a name and a number. Sorcha with ten digits behind it. As I unfolded it, a business card dropped out as well. She worked for Harper Collins. On the back in neat elegant script a message. I have the notebook, if the author comes looking, give him my card and call me.
Time stopped. My ideas, the plots, the characters, and the worlds I had built were safe. The conundrum? Would she follow the author of her discovery to the remote moors, away from the lively entertainment of a simple English pub?
Did I dare to hope she saw promise in my literary doodles? Or was she only curious about the deranged mind behind the treasure trove of story ideas I had scribbled across the lines. I put her personal contact information into my cell phone and slipped the business card into my wallet.
Hope springs eternal, I thought and decided to make my escape then and there, wondering which of our gang of six would discover I was missing and be the first to message or call. I went out the back door without another thought. Harper Collins is a well-respected, long established publisher. I’ll be paying you a call Sorcha. Even if I have to track you down at work. I recognized the Scottish four digit prefix to her number. My father’s steward had the same one.
Name on a Napkin
Wine stains bloom across satiny napkins
Upon which lie
Of minds heady with lust
Hints of sweet cherry infuse into the air
As desperate lovers engage in shameless affairs
Burying their hands in each other’s hair
Too consumed to think of despair
I pity their beloveds who stay back at home
Waiting like hopeless fools, forlorn
Wondering what’s keeping them from coming back tonight
Unaware they might be kissing somebody else under the cloak of night.
August 5th, 1996
2181 North Flower...
..and I couldn’t read the rest. The letters had been smeared from what looked like an old tea stain. Not too old.. after all it was now only October of '97. It was my first time in Britain and I felt so alive exploring the new surroundings...but...somehow I knew I had to find her. And somehow..I knew if I didn’t that I would feel at least a little ..less.. alive. The book I found the napkin in was titled “A Life Lived and Lost” and written in 1988. The cover was a dark brown felxible leather with dirty gold inset text. Oddly enough, it had no author- just an inscription which read “To my daughter- whom I have loved and will continue to love from this life and into the next” -Unknown.