He puts my food down on the table and immediately I see it’s not what I ordered. With that, I say, “I ordered the lamb shawarma wrap, not this!” To which he responds, “I made that special for you because you’ve been here before!”
I’m about to say, “But. . .” when my wife taps my knee under the table and gives me the look. “Thanks very much!” I say, as convincingly as possible, to which he nods and then walks away.
I’m almost done with my meal, when he comes up to our table and asks how I like it. Before I can answer, he sits down in an empty chair and proceeds to tell us about his life. How he’s from Syria and grew up in a family of fourteen brothers and sisters. He came to this country with nothing, and he worked as a baker for many years before he was able to open this restaurant.
When, at some point, I mention that I was a teacher for thirty-one years, mostly working with children, he tells us a story about his daughter’s fifth grade teacher, who told him she was resistant to learning. That she just wasn’t a serious student.
Hearing this made him so upset that he met with the principal, and from there on his daughter started doing better. By the time she graduated from sixth grade, she was the top student in her class.
He then informs us that his daughter is now in medical school at Stanford University, soon to become the first doctor in his family.
After sharing this with us, he looks around the restaurant, and seeing that it’s getting busy, he says that he has to get back to work, but before he leaves, I thank him again for the meal, saying that I enjoyed it.
On the way to the car, I confess to my wife that it didn’t even compare to their lamb shawarma wrap.
Jeffrey Zable is a teacher, conga drummer/percussionist, who plays Afro-Cuban and Afro-Haitian folkloric music for dance classes in San Francisco and Berkeley. He’s also a writer of poetry, flash fiction, and flash non-fiction. More recent publications include Ink In Thirds, Uppagus, Defuncted, Lucent Dreaming, The Mark, Alba, Corvus, and many others.