A child just waved at me. I turned from my work to look out the coffee shop window and saw his face looking back. His mom pushed a stroller carrying his sister while this young boy held one of the handles. He walked sideways, as children often do, moving forward because they must, but still wanting to be distracted. His expression was one of joyous shock as a near smile captured his entire mouth. There was a light in his eye – a sense of anticipation and excitement that seemed to involuntarily flow out his arm into a methodical wave that could not be contained. He was in a parade of one, calling others to share in his happiness.
I think his mom had just bought donuts next door.
The first time I was presented with the option of going to an Ethiopian restaurant, it was described to me like this: “There’s this grey, spongy bread and you eat with your hands.” It didn’t sound too thrilling at that point, so our group opted for the Cuban place that had knives and forks. But after hearing nothing but good things about a local restaurant called Queen of Sheba, my wife, Andrea, and I decided to give it a try for our anniversary.
We were told by some friends to have it served traditionally, which means everything comes on a platter with one large piece of thin, round flat-bread, called injera, which is more brown than grey and not as spongy as I had imagined. It’s made from teff flour and has a wonderful sourdough flavor to it. When the platter with each item ordered comes out, you are given rolled up pieces of the injera, which you slowly unroll, tearing off small chunks that are used to pick up the various foods on the platter.
From the first time we went, we loved it, and have since found another local place called Abyssinia that even has a lunch buffet. Andrea even tackled cooking some Ethiopian dishes at home, which turned out great. All in all, the spices are unique, the injera is delicious, and you get so much variety from one meal. From lentils to chicken, salad to beef, not to mention collard greens, cabbage, potatoes, and more, it’s fun to go from dish to dish. And once you embrace it, eating with your hands makes all the sense in the world.
Don’t let the strange colored bread or absence of silverware throw you off – if someone throws out Ethiopian as a dinner option, you should try it.
The memory of our first days together rings in me like the stroke of twelve on a winter’s night. In those first days we were together you turned to look at my face almost every hour, anxious to behold my beauty and consider my thoughts. You walked proudly with me on your arm, quick to introduce me to your friends and family. We were hardly ever apart, and even when the newness of it all wore off, I was still a part of you every day. In joy and sadness, I was by your side, marking with you the passing of time and the moments when it seemed to stand still. I’ve felt your tears fall. I’ve been raised up with you in triumph. I’ve been faithful.
And then she came along. Sleek and showy, I thought you would surely see past all her empty promises, but you were lost in the palm of her hand. Now it was her you showed off to your friends. I thought that you had stared at me often when we first met, but your eyes never seem to leave her, to the point that you risked your life just to turn your gaze in her direction. I tried so hard to give you space, to only tell you what you wanted to hear from me, but she goes on and on, constantly interrupting, often with completely useless drivel. And even when you do talk to one another, it’s like you speak a different language – she’s always mishearing you or taking what you say the wrong way. And when you need her most, that’s when she decides to quit on you. Still you hold onto her, always searching for new ways that she might fulfill you, forgiving her quirks and failures. All this time you think you’ve got her in your back pocket, yet she’s the one in control. However I can see that look in your eyes. Two years –that’s all I give her. Two years and you’ll be ready for the newest model in the shop window.
So here I sit, discarded, erratically picked up like some relic of your past that somehow keeps pace with the times. But inside, what made me tick is slowly dying. Everything is slowing down, and I know my final seconds are near. And when it’s all said and done and my hands finally quit their work, you will be the only one who can give me new life, but I have no hope that you will. No, I’ll be laid to rest in a dark drawer, now unable to do the one thing I once could – the one thing that kept me in your sight. So time will march on for everyone else, but it will finally cease for me.