One day during the first year of our marriage, Chris took me to a little Chinese restaurant in Alabama. When we walked in, we saw that the room had an odd décor: one wall consisted of wood panels a couple of feet wide, punctuated by shining panels of what looked like rainbowed waterfalls cascading to the floor.
The waitress walked us past all the tables, taking us right up to the corner wall, where she rustled back an armful of ceiling-to-floor strings of beads, revealing our booth in a small alcove. There seemed to be maybe five more of the colorful caves down the wall, lit by rosy lamps and candles on the tables.
She brought our drinks and took our order, standing in the little doorway with the beads clicking and hanging around her, with her body in a cleared space, and her hands materializing out of nowhere to hold the pen and pad. She would go away and return; with a swishing sound, a covered plate would appear between the strings, hanging there disembodied til the hand, arm, person followed behind. Then her exit would be accompanied by a sweeping, clicking rattle, as she left dragging yards of beadwork like a potentate’s glistening robes.
We spent the meal alternately enjoying the delicious food and giggling at the unintended floorshow---the acoustics were quite muffled, but we could hear similar whitewater rafting sounds coming from adjacent booths. And her gyrations to enter, set down plates, refill water, turn and exit gracefully with all that clinging daycor were just hilarious.
It was an Alabama parody of the classic geisha maneuvers to kneel in the hallway, slide the shoji, set in the tea-tray, rise, enter, close door, kneel-rise-kneel, with all the sinuous hand motions in graceful ballet, moving around the table in an up-and-down glide like a graceful carousel figure. Ours had none of the Kimono cachet of the originals, in her crisp white shirt and black apron, but she bravely did her best to subdue the long strands of clicking pastel which hampered her every move.
I don’t remember where this happened, or the name of the restaurant. I just remember its lofty pretensions and extraneous efforts at romantic privacy, both of which are lost in the mists of time and absurdity. And I remember that graceful young woman who fought her way time after time through a thicket of baubles just to serve our dinner.