Dinner Talk & a Warning

Thaddaus on his way to Krasi where he was to meet Ms. Sambu. It was early Saturday evening. During the week, he had called her and asked her to have dinner with him. She sounded surprised but accepted his invitation. They arranged to meet in front of the restaurant at seven. When he got there, she was waiting for him. “Good evening, Ms. Sambu.”

“Good evening, Mr. Kyriaku.” She still couldn’t believe that she was going to have dinner with him. When he called her on Thursday, she was worried that he might have been calling to cancel her music lesson on Sunday, so when he asked her to have dinner, she was completely floored. After she recovered from her shock, she said yes. And, here they were.

They went inside and were shown to a table in the corner. After they were seated, a waitress brought the menus and asked if they were ready to order drinks. Her eyes lingered on Mr. Kyriaku who seemed amused. They ordered their drinks and the waitress left. He opened the menu. When the waitress returned with their drinks, she took their orders for the first and main courses.

“How old are you, Ms. Sambu?” Mr. Kyriaku asked when they were alone.

“Twenty-two.”

“You look older.”

“Oh.”

“I didn’t mean to offend you but believe me if you looked much younger than you are, I wouldn’t be here with you. I’m not one of those men who like to be with girls who look like teenagers when they’re in really in their twenties.”

“Oh. How many other students do you teach music to?”

“There’s only one other. She’s in her late teens.”

“Do you teach only females?”

“No, I teach mostly males and I suspect that it’s because most parents prefer to have their daughters taught by a female music instructor rather than a male, especially if he’s a bachelor.”

“Isn’t that a form of discrimination?”

“I suppose it is but, parents have to be comfortable and they just aren’t comfortable with a male teaching their daughters.”

“I think the experience of the teacher is what should matter, not the gender.”

“I agree.”

The waitress returned with their salads. Mariama bristled when she saw the way the woman was looking at Mr. Kyriaku. How dared she? Did it ever occur to her that the two of them might be in a relationship?

“What’s the matter?” Mr. Kyriaku asked as soon as the waitress was gone.

“Nothing. Mr. Kyriaku, I want you know to how grateful I am to you for giving me free music lessons. Here in Boston, piano teachers charge $39, on average, for private piano classes in Boston. The price for piano lessons differs depending on the experience of the instructor. For violin lessons, instructors charge $54.”

“I charge between $15 and $40 for a 30-minute lesson and that depends on where each student lives. Enough about music lessons. Tell me about yourself. You’re from Gambia, I believe.”

“Yes. Gambia is still one of the poorest countries in the world. I was born in Banjul. It’s the capital and the largest city in Gambia. The cost of living in Gambia is low. Banjul is known for its lively, welcoming atmosphere and its rich cultural history. The majority of Gambians are Muslim. The working week is Sunday to Thursday. Businesses are closed on Fridays. Muslims believe Friday was chosen by God as a dedicated day of worship.”

“That’s interesting. Friday is their day of worship while Saturday is the Jews’ and for Christians, it’s Sunday with the exception of those who share the same day of worship as the Jews. On which day do you and your family worship?”

“Sunday.”

“Same as my family and me. Is your family here or in Banjul?”

“Most of them are in Banjul. A few of them are in England. I have a cousin here in Boston. I’m staying with her.”

“What made you decide to move from Banjul to Boston?”

The waitress brought the lamb osso buco for him and the grilled chicken, lemon marinade, braised okra, corn for her. She smiled at Mr. Kyriaku. “Hope you’re enjoying your dinner,” she said in Greek.

“I am, thank you,” he replied in English.

Her smile broadening, she took up the salad plates and left.

“What did she say to you?” Mariama asked.

“She said that she hopes that I’m enjoying my dinner. What made you decide to move from Banjul to Boston?”

“There are only two universities in Gambia. I didn’t want to go to either of them. So, I asked my parents if I could study abroad. They said I could and suggested I choose either England or America because I have family there I could stay with. I chose America and then, I applied to Boston University. I was accepted.”

“I think you made the right choice. What do your parents do?”

“My father is a Managing Director and my mother is the Head of Finance at a bank.”

“Do you have siblings?”

“I have an older sister, Fatou. She’s a civil lawyer.”

“Is she married?”

“No, but she’s dating a doctor. She met him two years ago.”

“What about you? Are you dating anyone?”

“No.”

His eyebrows arched. “How come? What about the guys on campus?”

She lowered her gaze. I’m not interested in dating any of them because of you. “I’ve had a couple of guys ask me out.”

“And?”

“And I turned them down because dating can be distracting and-and I want to focus on my studies.”

“Fair enough. I guess being in a relationship will make it hard for you to stay focused.”

“I think it would be best to wait until after I’ve graduated to start a relationship.”

“Yes, I suppose that would be best.”

She didn’t answer.

“Ms. Sambu, if at any time you feel that spending time with me is affecting your studies, please let me know.”

“I will.” She hoped they wouldn’t because it would probably mean that he would decide that they couldn’t see each other anymore. And she couldn’t bear that. Every week, she looked forward to seeing him.

“Now, what would you like for dessert?”

“The Kaimaki ice cream.”

“And I’ll have Portokalopita, a traditional Greek orange cake.”

When the waitress came to clear away the plates, he ordered the desserts. As soon as she was gone, Mariama said to him, “She has been flirting with you all evening.”

“Yes, I know. Does it bother you, Ms. Sambu?”

“No,” she replied quickly, too quickly.

“She’s very pretty. She reminds me of a girl I used to date when I was in university.” He watched her closely.

Mariama lowered her eyes. Suddenly, she didn’t feel like having the ice-cream although it looked very appetizing. “Maybe you should ask her for her number before we leave.”

“Do you think I should?”

“It’s up to you.”

“I know it’s up to me, Ms. Sambu, but I’m very curious to know what you think.”

“I-I think that if you’re attracted to her you should ask her for her number.”

“For your information, Ms. Sambu, I’m not going to ask for her number for the simple reason that I’m not attracted to her.”

“You said she was very pretty and that she reminded you of an old girlfriend.”

“Yes, she’s very pretty and yes, she reminds me of Eleni but it doesn’t follow that I would be attracted to her. I only said those things to see what your reaction would be.”

She stared at him. “My reaction?”

“Yes. Now, why don’t you eat your ice-cream before it melts?”

She picked up the spoon and began to have the flavorful dessert. She was very relieved that he wasn’t attracted to the waitress. “What happened with Eleni?” she asked.

“After she graduated, she returned to Greece. We kept in touch for a while and then, I decided that I didn’t want to have a long distance relationship so one summer when, she visited, I broke up with her. She was very upset. The last I heard of her, she was married with three children.”

“Was she pretty?”

“Eleni? No, Eleni was beautiful. She was one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen. I was sorry when she decided to return to Athens. She wanted me to move there but, my life was here in Boston.”

Mariama looked at him. “I’m glad you didn’t move to Athens.”

“So, am I. You and I wouldn’t have met if I had.”

“Have you ever been to Athens?”

“Many times. I have family there. One of these days I will tell you about Athens. I’m going to have some Greek coffee to wash down the cake. Would you like anything else?”

She shook her head. “No, thank you.”

He signaled to the waitress. “One Greek coffee and the bill, please.”

“Yes. I’ll bring them right away.”

“I think she’s hoping that you’ll leave more than a tip.”

“Then, I’m afraid, she’s in for a big disappointment.”

The coffee and bill came. As he sipped the coffee, he paid the bill and included a generous tip.

“This is a very nice restaurant. Have you been here before?”

“Yes, I have–once with friends and family. Our friendly waitress wasn’t working here at the time.”

“What does Krasi mean?”

“In Greek, it means wine.”

“I find it very interesting that they would name their restaurant Wine.”

“It’s not surprising. Greeks love wine. In classical Greek culture, wise men drank wine to expand their mind and praise the gods. The ancient Greeks discovered wine as nature’s gift and turned it into a work of art. Social drinking is a big part of Greek life. Traditionally, Greeks drink at every meal. When I was a child, I was given a glass of watered-down wine. However, we drink responsibly because drinking in excess is frowned upon.”

“My parents would never have allowed me to have wine when I was a child, not even if it was watered down.”

“I guess it’s a cultural thing. Drinking in excess is frowned upon among Greeks so we drink responsibly. I make it a rule not to have more than two glasses of wine.” He finished his coffee, dapped his mouth with the napkin and placed it on the table. He stood up. “Shall we go?”

She placed her napkin on the table and rose to her feet. The waitress saw them leaving and hurried over to say goodbye just as they reached the entrance of the dining-room, leading into the reception area. She spoke first to Mariama and then, she said to Mr. Kyriaku, “Goodbye. I hope you will come again soon.”

He smiled. “Thank you.” Then, he put his arm around Mariama’s shoulder and walked out of the restaurant.

Mariama’s heart was thudding and she felt bereft when he removed his arm from around her as they walked to the car. He opened the passenger door for her to get in. Their eyes met briefly before she climbed in and he closed the door behind her. She fastened her seatbelt as he walked around to the driver’s side. Soon, they were pulling out of the parking lot.

Twenty minutes, later, they were outside of the apartment building where she was staying. They were at the side facing each other. She had her back towards the wall. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Mr. Kyriaku. The place was bright enough for them to see each other clearly.

“All right. Thanks for dinner.”

“You’re welcome. Oh, by, the way, I will be in the swimming pool an hour and a half before your lesson.”

“So, if I arrive early, I should wait in the music room.”

“Yes, you should. I warn you, Ms. Sambu, if you come out to the swimming pool while I’m there like you did that other time, you will get yourself in trouble.”

“Trouble? What do you mean? Will you have Giorgios escort me off the premises?”

“No.”

“What would you do, then?”

“Make love to you.”

She gulped. “Y-you would?” she stammered, suddenly finding it very hard to breathe properly. She leaned heavily against the wall as her legs felt as if they would give way under her. Her heart was beating so fast, it scared her. She could tell from the expression on his face that he was dead serious.

“Yes, I would. And unless you want me to, stay in the music room.”

“Yes.”

“Good. Kalinychta. That’s Greek for good night. I can teach you how to speak Greek, if you like, although it is among the hardest languages for English speakers to learn. I can teach you basic phrases. Think about it and let me know. Incidentally, our last music lesson is in two weeks but we will be starting our first horse riding lesson then. You will come in the afternoon at the same time you’ve been coming for your music lessons. See you tomorrow.”

She watched him as he walked to his car and got in. As he drove away, she rested her head against the concrete and closed her eyes. She knew she wasn’t going to get much sleep that night, thinking about him and what he said.

Sources: Greek Reporter; Take Lessons; Expat Arrivals; InterNations; xpatulator; The Conversation; The Gambia; University Magazine; Medium; Wines of Greece

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