“Its already four o’clock and I am only half way there”, I exclaimed, frustrated with the drudgery of traffic. “Great!” Gripping the pale gray steering wheel tightly with both hands, and my forehead making its soft contact with the wheel, my anxiety increased as time went by. As soon as I was able to escape the boxed prison, I stepped on the gas of my 2006 Isuzu SUV weaving in and out of traffic. I didn’t have time to consider the visibly agitated drivers who were cut off by my “Hollywood-ready” driving display. The only words looping in my mind as I advanced towards my exit were, “I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!” while blaring the horn, pleading for the cars ahead hurry up.
It was 4:15 pm when I finally pulled up in front of the American Thai Food establishment. I shut off the engine and leaned back into my cushioned chair. I sat in the silence, beaming with content from defeating the expected thirty minute traffic delay that was reported on the radio. Once the self-indulgence bubble popped into reality, I unbuckled myself from the seat and turned around toward the rear of the vehicle to attain a pair of white two inch high heeled shoes to replace the recently worn out pair of Nike slippers I’d used to race to the rendezvous. I stepped out of the Isuzu and grabbed my purse from the passenger seat. Before locking the doors I double checked my mental list of necessary items: wallet, keys, phone, tissues, lip gloss, Chap Stick and a stick of Juicy Fruit bubble gum. Everything that I needed seemed to be in my possession. Before leaving for the restaurant, however, I caught a glimpse of myself against the car’s slick black glossy surface. Perfection was all that I could see. Not a hair out of place or a stain in sight.
Taking long strides towards the American Thai Food Restaurant double front doors, I couldn’t help but notice the doors dark mahogany characteristics and solid gold handles. They screamed an elegance that instinctively forced me into a final visual check before going inside. I ran my fingers through my hair and smoothened out my fitted, knee-lengthened dress. ‘I am way too excited’, I acknowledged to myself.
Like Dorothy being stuck in the eye of a tornado and carried away from Kansas, I was taken away by the restaurant. Blocked off from the noise of the outside world, I was able to relax in a complete state of utter musical bliss. All the tension was washed away by the slow waves of jazz playing throughout the establishment like the ocean on the shores of a beach. I looked around the eatery but could not find any of my friends in either the American or Thai wings. I became irate when I came to the conclusion that I was the first one there. I risked life and limb driving here the way that I did for them to be late themselves. Lucky for my fellow students, my resolve soon returned. The anger melted away when the waiter, Phillip, arrived. Armed with a very nice smile, he asked ‘How may I help you?. I was more than happy to answer. I asked for a booth large of enough for eight people on the American side of the refectory. Before Phillip went to find a table, I explained to him how I was waiting for my friends. After two minutes he escorted me to a booth with a perfect view of the parking lot, making it easier to spot tardy friends as they arrived.
I waited with anticipation of their apologetic expressions in a booth way to big for one person. I sat there waiting and staring at those mahogany doors like something big is going to happen. Presumably feeling sorry for me, the waiter engaged me in conversation before taking my order. At the end of our chat, I ordered a basket of fries with ketchup, ranch, and barbeque condiments as an appetizer along with an additional seven menus. Before placing my order, the waiter turned around with an even warmer smile and said ‘Congratulations’. “Thank you very much” I replied, sporting an equally charming smile of my own.
A few minutes after offering my “thank you” to Phillip, my friend Letitia burst through the doors. Understanding that she was looking for me, I stood up and waved my hand to gain her attention. After she found me, Letitia motioned with her index finger, signaling me to wait. She waited for Danique to enter. A few seconds passed before Danique walked in as well. As the duo walked over to me, I could not help but notice how lovely they looked. I have seen these girls dress up before over the past four years but nothing like this. Letitia wore a long flowing white dress, ending right above her ankles, that caressed the curves of her upper torso with a teal ribbon and matching teal high heels. Danique wore a white, red polka-dotted dress with stunning red high heels and very fashionable accessories on her arms, neck, and ears. They sat down in the red leather booth along side me and, after a brief greet and hug, we began to eat the fries and talk at the same time. A couple of minutes later, Lura arrived with the rest of the people in our crew. As they walked over to us, the patrons of the restaurant stared at them with puzzled looks on their faces, as if asking ‘Why are they so dressed up?’ The late arrivals sat down with smiles on their faces, clearly ignoring the gawking staff, and joined Letitia, Danique, and I in our little feast.
After placing our order for our main dishes and refreshing our drinks, there was an awkward silence after the mini-conversations died down. Everyone, understandably so, looked depressed, avoided the subject at hand and avoided one another’s gaze. We would periodically look outside and watch cars go by or lightly chuckle at the new waitress breaking yet another glass. The reserved silence was broken when Roshekia almost choked on an ice cube. The miscue in turn gave her a brain freeze. Our laughter once again drew the glare from the staff and other restaurant-goers. We didn’t care though. That was, as was the case many times before, something only Roshekia could pull off while maintaining her good-natured disposition and laugh right along with us. As I lightly patted her on her back while she struggled to regain her breath and posture, my eyes began to water at the realization that these were probably the last times we’d all be sharing a hardy laugh together. After wiping away the tears from our eyes, we raised our glassed and proudly exclaimed “Class of 09! We made it!”