I was having dinner by myself tonight at Community, on Broadway and 112th Street. I was trying to contemplate karma while eating a trout salad and sauteed greens, but I was distracted by the mother and daughter at the table next to me. The girl was probably a sophomore at Barnard—a pretty brunette with thick glasses and a mouth so sour it looked like she’d need a face lift to smile. And the mom, well, I couldn’t see her because she was beside me, but she was from out of town. What got me was that the mom ordered the beet salad, saying she’d eat with “daddy” later on, but when the daughter’s chicken dinner arrived, the mom dove into it like a doctor doing exploratory surgery on a fat man. I mean, rhonestly: she was working her fork and knife so hard that I worried I’d end up with a shiner. I think it got to the daughter, too, because she began texting while she ate, and answering her mother’s questions in monosyllables.
And then a wave of deep sadness came over me, from missing the days when I would sit across the table from Maud and be an annoying and pathetic mom, thinking that because the chicken was hers, it was mine too. How lucky I was to have had that experience!
I was pulled out of this reverie, though, suddenly, when I heard the daughter singing. It turns out she was waving her hand in the air, too, conducting, just for her mom.
“I got the sheet music in Barnes and Noble,” the girl said.
“Really?” the mother said, her mouth still full of chicken, “They have sheet music at Barnes and Noble?”
“Yeah,” said the daughter. “I got that Chopin that you used to play, remember?” She softly sang that tune, and it was beautiful. “And I got the Rachmaninoff, too—that one you like?” And she sang that too.
I wanted to stay longer and hear more, but I had to leave. I was wrong about them. I hope the daughter ordered the coconut cream pie. I think the mom would like it.