A Cuban Lunch

My friend leads us up the sidewalk towards the entrance of the restaurant. The scorching summer heat follows us into the shadow of the building before we escape into the air-conditioned space.

I hesitate once I step inside, moving to the left and waiting for my eyes to adjust. The sounds of casual lunches reach my ears; the odors of cooking Cuban food reach my nose. I am hungry already.

The solid shape of a hardwood bar stretches out before me. I admire the expanse as a hostess arrives to seat the four of us. I tap along in file behind my husband for the short journey across the cool, stone-tiled floor.

We order our food and drinks and settle into conversation with our friends. I notice more details around me as we talk: the polished wooden surface of our table, the crisp cotton napkins, the wide glass windows looking out to the street, the exposed brick wall next to us. The variety of textures pleases me.

The server places our food on the table. The scent of andouille sausage, ham, roast pork, mustard, swiss cheese, pickles, and onion marmalade fills the air. Fresh, baked Cuban bread and fries sneak into the mix of smells, too.

A good lunch is one that gets a little messy. As I wipe my face, I glance up and catch a sparkle. The tin ceiling glimmers in the reflection from the front windows and the candles on every table. The soft light does not make me squint.

Once everyone finishes eating, we pay our bill. We collect our things, preparing to walk back outside into the humid summer afternoon.

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