I was not so enthralled with the envelope and what secrets it would reveal that I couldn’t enjoy the novelty of returning, familiar, to a place in a neighborhood I dimly but absolutely recognized as my own. It was, in a way, like being given a gift from a list I’d created years ago, lifetimes ago. So I used a little of the time after the waiter, a boy my age, to soak it in: the white cloth, the dusty window and the slanting winter light filtering through, conjuring up my idea of the cosmopolitan life. It was a moment I would always remember probably in the way girls remember their first times. Solitary and comfortable in it, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Moving the place setting, I spread the contents of Abigail’s envelope onto the table top:
A gold swizzle stick from the Boston Park Plaza taped to postcard from same. Scribbled note read: May 5, 7pm, call room first, can’t wait, K.
A menu from The Chanticleer, in Nantucket
A book of matches from The Anchor Inn, Historic Nantucket
A snapshot, not as clear as a pining mistress would want, of a smiling couple: Abigail and Ken, at an outside table, laughing and toasting the photographer whose shadow did not intrude. I remembered the framed photo in Abigail’s living room, on the end table next to the couch, of her and a girl friend, and a long shadow of a man named Ken Eberhard.
A shadow fell across my table. Looking up, I smiled at Judith’s husband, Michael.
“Did you want some soup?” he asked, sitting opposite, preparing to join me.
“Huh?” I emerged from my reverie as if from a coma. “French onion,” he said, motioning for the waiter. “Yards of Jarlsberg.”
“What’s all this?” he asked, his hand going straight for the menu. “Hey, I’ve been here. I’d steal the chowder recipe if I thought I could make it with catfish.”