I walk into The Land & Water.

A bartender tells me to sit anywhere I like.

I ask the waitress her name.

“Kayla,” she says.

“Look, I’m going to make this really easy. Water with no ice and 10-piece sashimi,” I say.

She verifies my lack of allergies and departs. 

I watch the bar. 

Patrons and bartenders laugh in sync.

A bartender lifts his tee shirt sleeve to reveal a tattoo. 

She smiles.

He smiles. 

I wonder if he drinks while on the job. 

I chose to be alone this evening. 

Two colleagues invited me to accompany them for dinner. 

I declined.

I had to see about a beach where the sun disappeared beyond the reach of my eyes. 

It’s been over two years since I drank alcohol.

I believe I smile more without it. 

But it often helped me smile when I didn’t know how. 

My vision pans the room and two women enter. 

The men behind the bar observe the ladies approach.

The men watch the women watch the drink menus. 

Another look.

Kayla brings me a second water without ice without request. 

“Thank you, I appreciate that,” I say.

She smiles again. 

I smile again. 

I think she means it. 

I mean it. 

But I haven’t always meant it. 

But I still did it when I didn’t know how. 

The second cup of water tastes different because my forefinger feels something unclean on the glass. 

I smile because I don’t know how. 

I watch people. 

I see a couple speak their first words as they near completion of their meals. 

The bartender with ink on his arm is now on the opposite side of the bar with the patrons. 

I wonder if I’m a good date. 

I’m having a good time.

I’m happy with myself. 

So why would I wonder if others around me wonder about me?

Especially when very few meet my eyes inside The Land & Water. 

A woman stands inside the front entrance. 

She has stood there since I sat down. 

I catch the woman from the married couple glance at me.

I smile at her.  

Her eyes run out the window. 

Kayla makes the married couple smile. 

The woman at the front door vanishes. 

The bartender with the now hidden tattoo delivers my sashimi. 

Kayla asks if everything looks good. 

I smile and recycle some of her language. 

I eat several pieces. 

Kayla approaches at <1 mph. 

“It is spectacular,” I say with a mouth full of food. 

She smiles without stopping. 

A young girl who went to the restroom returns to view with a woman who could be Kayla’s sister. 

The young girl sees Kayla and sprints into her arms. 

Kayla smiles. 

I’m chewing now. 

I’m not sure which fish this is, but it remains spectacular. 

I mean it.

A different couple seems to be disagreeing. 

He reaches for his beverage. 

She waves her hand which implies their ongoing disagreement. 

The check is presented for the sashimi. 

I start to ask Kayla for the role of the young girl, but she saves me by smiling without stopping.

The check is re-presented.

“If you need anything before you go, just let me know,” Kayla says. 

I finish my ten pieces

I’ve finished this piece.