Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 4, Let Me Put It To You That Way

 *Author’s note:  This is part 4 of 13 parts.  To better understand the content of the story, it is suggested that you scroll back to the Prelude.

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It was an awkward time, early in the afternoon.  I had spent as much time as I could in the common area of the hotel after I had dropped my satchel off in my room.  I cursed my lack of imagination for not bringing my laptop or a notebook to write on.  Not even a Michael Crighton novel or some useless poetry had accompanied me this time.  I inquired about a good place to eat and was told an open air restaurant called My Blue Heaven was just down the street and a favorite of the hotel owners.  I grabbed a copy of USA Today from the check-out counter and stepped back outside, avoiding any possible eye contact with the Hemingway Estate.  I feared my shear boredom would compel me to disregard my agreement with the curator and tempt me to cross over for a visit.  And I also knew that with my luck he would be lurking just inside the entrance and blow the whistle, causing KWPD patrol cars to go careening out of control in their harried attempt to apprehend me.  So I opted to stay on the opposite side of the street until I reached the corner and THEN briskly walked over to the opposite side, ever alert for the cops.

My Blue Heaven is a fenced in two story structure with the entrance around the side.  The outdoorsy setting is beneath several shade trees and other bits of tropical foliage.  It has a patio stone collage floor with wrought iron tables and chairs.  A lectern for the maitre de and a wine list on display greets the customer and free range chickens peck crumbs at will.  A cheerful, middle aged woman that winked at me as I approached asked sweetly if it would be a table for one.  I wondered if I should wink back, offer a smile and a handshake, or have a go with her right then and there.  But instead I meekly acknowledged my oneness and followed her to a table.

For being mid-afternoon the place was fairly busy.  I was placed at a four chair table, but one of the chairs had been relocated to another group of people, making my singleness seem even more apparent.  Time couldn’t circumference the dial fast enough in my mind and I wondered if I was even hungry.  But the menu bragged about their omelets so I ordered one with hot tea, pleased that they did indeed have honey.

I thumbed through the USA Today with little interest, I was vaguely aware of the people around me but really just wanted to blend in and not be bothered.  I spotted an elderly couple with what looked like grandchildren and their mother sitting to my right.  (they had taken the chair)  To my left was a table of several young men who looked like they had just stepped off the cover of Esquire magazine.  Partially blocking my view to the maitre de’s lectern was a single couple that were speaking German mixed with some broken English that appeared to be tourists.

Sports don’t thrill me all that much once football season is over, but I feigned interest in what was going on in baseball then turned to the opinion section.  Rattling my pages like I was terribly engrossed, I read with amusement the op-ed pages.  I had aways felt that opinions were like belly buttons because everybody has one, but today’s subjects were exceptionally droll.  I didn’t notice the men that entered and were greeted by the hostess with the twitch in her eye until she swayed up to my table.  Interrupting my blissful segregation with an excuse me?  I looked up.  She was asking me if I would mind moving to a different table, a smaller one, in order to accommodate the group of men that had just come in.

Normally I am fairly receptive to change, but for some reason I was irritated.  I felt betrayed, unworthy, like I was a second class citizen.  Wasn’t this where you sat me in the first place? I was thinking, and I just about blurted it out when I noticed one of the men looking at me and I froze.  I thought I recognized him, and for what seemed like a replay in slow motion I looked round.  It was like all eyes were watching, waiting, seeing what I would do.  The hostess had this placid smile fixed firmly and I could feel my own face flushing.  I wanted to become indignant.  I wanted to cry foul.  I thought of jumping up and running from the restaurant out of sheer embarrassment, but my server arriving with my food snapped me back to reality.  The men waiting to be seated had stopped talking to each other and were watching me, too.

Silently, reluctantly and with much shame I rose and took a smaller, two seat table in the corner that wobbled on the irregular patio stone floor.  It was dirty, like it hadn’t been used for a while with a thin film of grime discoloring it’s glass top.  I had no choice but to sit with my back to the exterior fence, facing the men who triumphantly sat down at my table.  A server briskly produced a fourth chair for the man I recognized to use. He had fallen behind the other men and one of them called to him over his shoulder, Manolo.  He sat in full view of me, blocking out the German tourists.  Another man sat off to his left.  He allowed his sport jacket to drop back to his side as he slid down slightly, casually.  I noticed a shoulder holster peering out just below his armpit.  I saw a golden badge clipped to his trouser’s belt.  I figured he was in law enforcement, more than likely a detective.  The other men, including Manolo, appeared to be workers; wearing jeans, tennis shoes and vaious t-shirts, none of which were bought at the local vendors outlets.  The three of them looked Hispanic, maybe Cuban.  The detective was a large, white man and, if not for the gun and badge, looked middle class. 

Suddenly I had lost my appetite but I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself by leaving.  I teased at my plate, feebly chewed bits of egg and green pepper, trying to look inconspicuous.  But the badge wearing man was close, I could smell his after shave wafting through the breezy outdoor eatery.  And when he turned to give me a nod in acknowledgment for my making way for them, I knew where I had seen Manolo before.

He was the man I had called “the gazer” at the Green Parrot Bar, an establishment I had visited during my previous stay in Key West…

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