The meeting time was noon. And though it’s nearly 12:10 when I arrive, I saunter in slowly, knowing that the wait has really just begun. This is lunch with Connie Wang, after all. She’s one of my dearest friends from yesteryear and a perpetual late-runner, though she texts me this time and swears it’s her astronaut boyfriend. “Astronaut” because his name is Glenn (a la John Glen), not because of any professional aspirations, though the nickname carries all the weight and gusto of a professional title or decree. This is just another hallmark of our friendship; we name something, and then hold fast and hard to its moniker, reveling in any and all quips that can come from it. This is just the type of game we play during 11th hour interactions in Lake Forest California to distract us from the melancholy that soon comes as she boards a car to board a plane taking her back to Houston, Texas, where she attends Rice University.
This meeting, however, is not taking place in Texas nor California, but rather an all-too-small ramen noodle luncheon spot in the West Village of New York City. My neck of the woods, in other words. The place is far too tiny, and too hip too, judging from the yuppie hens I overhear crowing about macaroons and gym memberships as I perch awkwardly by the door; waiting for my the rest of my party before I can be seated. I tap my snow-booted foot, toes still slightly numb from the obscene January cold as I take in the women, the soupy smell of fresh broth, and the overloud and ill-fitting Spanish guitar sounding brightly through a nearby speaker.
Finally, after a copious amount of text messages, at 12:40 my party arrives; consisting of a 22 year old 5’2 girl with brown hair in her face, wrapped, as she herself proclaims, like a marshmallow in a borrowed Burberry coat. With her is a much taller and more affable looking gentleman of a similar age, her boyfriend in question. The three of us sit down at the table by the window. Connie hints at wanting veggie dumplings and Glenn obliges cheerfully, revealing a tangible glimmer of the mutual affection that follows them like a shadow. Glenn has impeccably good posture, I notice, and I take right away to the game he invents when he asks me if I am “the best” of all of Connie’s friends from home. “Naturally,” I say, and then jokingly attempt to prove it over and over as ramen bowls are brought and lunch progresses, looking over at Connie for confirmation. She just stares back blankly between pickings at a dumpling with the grace and speed of a pigeon in a park; all beak and no hesitation. Connie’s eating habits are one of those unchangeable and lavishly individual things about her, and watching her behavior, matching the lunch table habits I observed at Serrano Intermediate School or and her finesse in eating chocolates on floor of my living room is one of the things that makes this meeting, under such unusual conditions, feel natural.
So, Asian soup is eaten. Awkwardly, for my part with my half-asian hands, and less so for Connie and Glenn, despite the fact that his hands are as happa as mine own. Conversation is made about home and elsewhere, and when we leave it is to give up our table to the hoard of hungry lunchtime yuppie New Yorkers who take lunch breaks here in the West Village. And so we stand in the vestibule, applying layers and layers of outerwear the way Connie and I once spent summers (and winters for that matter) applying sunscreen. We head down a few blocks to Rocco’s (a nearby dessert place for nearby dessert), where Glenn searches sadly for lactose free pastries and I munch on a black and white cookie. Connie picks apart a fruit tart, chats me up about Turkish ice cream, and when I have to dart off to class, she blatantly refuses the three dollars that I throw (literally and unabashedly) at her, vehemently picking up the check for the second time today. Classy broad, that one, and one I’ll miss until I see her again under sunnier skies.