Thursday, April 08, 2010

Art Takes Latin Lover

La Isla is her name. I know her very well. They say to always look out for the ones closest to you.

This morning the weather was nice, so we decided to do family breakfast before Art went to work. On the way there we were discussing eating at Zylo or just picking up Starbucks and eating on the pier. He said he didn’t care for me to decide. And I distinctly remember saying, “No, you decide, I don’t care.” He said, “I don’t care, you decide.” And this is how our vicious circle of indecision almost always begins.

I said that I had previously seen people sitting outside with a baby in a high chair at La Isla, but they stopped serving breakfast at 10, and we wouldn’t make it in time. He didn’t respond, but I assumed he was done with breakfast talk.

But I really wanted La Isla. I hadn’t eaten breakfast there in months. It’s a tiny, micro-restaurant that doesn’t allow strollers inside, so since Reese has been born, we can only eat there when the weather is nice enough to sit outside.

I began thinking about their spinach-queso-plantain omelet, and decided to call, just to double check what time they stopped serving this savory treat. I hung up, excitedly announced that we could eat at La Isla since Reese is now big enough for high chair and we can sit outside! He took a few more steps before confessing, "I've been cheating on you with La Isla.”

I knew it! All the days he left early for work. All the times I offered cereal and he said, "I'm not in the mood." All the times I was left at home dealing with dirty diapers and he was out going Tiger on my ass.

My head was spinning with questions. I asked him how often? How long it had been going on? Did he sit at the counter like a regular? Did he ever order pancakes, huevos rancheros or the plantain omelet? He said he always ordered the breakfast sandwich. Then I had to bring myself to ask the hardest question of all... "On Cuban bread or whole wheat?"

It was whole wheat. Cuban bread would've just been rubbing my nose in it. I'm at home with a crying baby on my hip heating up frozen waffles and he's at La Isla’s.

I delved further, in my heart knowing the answer, "And a Cuban latte?"

Yes, but never mango-coconut batidas. La Isla did have some decency and saved those for me. But a tear came to my eye anyway, as I thought about the thick, warm, creamy, Cuban latte. Oh, what I would give to wake up next to a Cuban latte every morning.

Most men confess at a restaurant so women don't make a scene, he knew to confess before the restaurant so I wouldn't make a scene. And lucky he did.

The waitress walks up, looks at Art then me and said, "I know what he's having, what would you like?"

He explains to me that he just wanted a little time to himself some mornings. Some peace without baby drama or mama drama. That he never meant to hurt me. Then he relayed a few stories. Tells about the funny oatmeal incident, or what I like to call, the time he had a twosome.

Apparently one time he ordered his regular and the kitchen was backed up, it was taking forever. Someone put a bowl of oatmeal in front of him. He thought it was their way of apologizing for the wait, and scarffed it down. When his breakfast sandwich came, he ate that, too. Then the waitress came back and said, “Did you eat some oatmeal?”

Art said he did. Then she said, “Did you... order oatmeal?”

Then he sheepishly said, “….No.”

And they all had a laugh about it. Apparently the guy who ordered it was two seats down and had already given up on the wait and left. He said he could hear all the staff talking about it in Spanish and laughing.

Probably saying things like, “Hey Carlos, know the guy who sits at chair 10? The one sneaks out on his wife and kid for breakfast? That guy just ate two breakfasts! One wasn’t even his! Can you believe that guy?”

Reese interrupts Art's stories and fusses on cue when she hears plates hit the table and the phrase, “Can I get you anything else?" Normally I'd jump up and get her, but I didn't budge, just slowly began to eat. Art had his uninterrupted breakfasts, I could now have mine.

Art says, “Are you going to get her?”

I raised an eyebrow and calmly stated, “No, I’m not.”

Reese whines a little louder.

“Really, you’re not going to get her?”

Reese screams.

“You better eat fast, son.”

So he got to have breakfast the way I do. Eating with one hand while juggling a baby with another. Then drank his coffee standing up while lulling her to sleep. Normally we would trade off, tag-team eating and parenting. The most I did was move his cup of coffee to the other side of the table, so it would be easier for him to reach while he did the baby dance to get her to sleep.

La Isla - I'd always introduce friends and family to her when they were in town. She fed me while I was pregnant. Hell, she even held me while I was in labor! (Seriously, I ate here during early labor.) La Isla's even been to my home! All those happy memories of mornings eating La Isla deliveries on the back patio now tarnished.

After breakfast, we walked Art to the train and he said, "What you don't hear from Tiger Woods or Jesse Jones is that it was worth it. It was worth every breakfast sandwich that I got to eat alone." I ignore the fact that he said Jesse Jones instead of Jesse James, and try to focus on the fact that he even knows this little tid-bit of cultural history.

Art might be at work now, or just out restaurant-hopping across the city. Probably even sneaks down to the west village during lunch to get my favorite, Soy Luck Club.

So now, like Sandra Bullock and Elin Woods, I have to decide how to proceed. Pretend I don't know what he means when he refers to those early morning "meetings" or leaving early for a "client in Connecticut.” I can forgive & forget or even better, get revenge.

Maybe I'll start sneaking into the city for his favorite, a steak at Emporium Brazil, or what I will call "a doctor's appointment." That's right Art, if you're reading this, I might even order it RARE! Doesn’t matter that I hate steak, I can still eat it out of spite. I'd even have the entire basket of complimentary cheese-bread balls to myself, and finish it off with flan and coffee!

And the worst part about all this is that I introduced him to La Isla. We lived at the other end of town and I would always try to talk him into walking to La Isla to eat. I would tell him culinary tales of delicious Cuban food, and he would always moan, “It’s too far.” Then when we moved to this end of town and he ate there five times in the first week because it was delicious and convenient. A little too convenient, I guess.

A side note is that the whole time we were there today, I was distracted by the couple next to us. They spoke in hushed voices. Both had matching aviator sunglasses and matching jet black, thick, gorgeous wavy hair. Suspiciously gorgeous and thick. Like a wig. Most people might have suspected them to be brother and sister, I suspected witness protection program.

Now I know what restaurant reviewer’s mean when they describe a place as “Hoboken’s best kept secret.”

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