THE VOYAGE ACROSS THE ROOM
We’re at Two Boots in Brooklyn, having dinner with a group of writers after a literary magazine reading. Two Boots is a Louisiana/Italy restaurant in Park Slope (boot of Italy, boot of Louisiana/food of Italy, food of Louisiana), decorated with paraphernalia from both places—plastic wine grapes, Mardi Gras beads, maps, doubloons, a papier-mâché alligator and empty Chianti bottles—fond reminders of my home state of Louisiana. While waiting for a table, we observe kids riding the electric alligator outdoors, watch pizzas being made and a local Cajun band beginning to set up. We stand in the crowded bar waiting for a table, watching people drink the special Two Boots Bloody Marys and Hurricanes. No one likes a crowd or waiting for a table but for someone with Parkinson’s it is even worse. In Hal’s case it has to do with needing a clear path, so that he can focus on moving ahead when the time comes. Sometimes he walks with his right arm bent behind him in the air to help with his balance—like a sail or fish fin plowing through the water. I know, from the look on Hal’s face, that he is worried about trekking through the crowd, the tipsy barflies, the hungry children, people not paying attention because they are out having fun. What I’ve learned to do is walk ahead of him, clearing a path, whispering, “Excuse me” in a polite tone. Usually people will step aside but not always in New York City, where space is a commodity. When the hostess comes to bring us to our table, she leads us to a booth in the far corner of the room, all the way across. I sigh to myself knowing that it will be hard for Hal to make the trek (I had not yet learned to say something about needing a table close by). Our crowd follows her, and then I follow them, in front of Hal. It is not easy: The tables are crowded together, waitresses hold trays of calamari and pitchers of beer high up in the air, children throw balls of pizza dough and dart from table to table. There are parked strollers, too, and loud music. I can hear Hal’s quiet shuffle behind me. I turn and look to make sure he is okay but he is focused on the voyage across the room, using every bit of concentration. I quickly turn away, looking ahead, making sure he doesn’t notice that I am worried and that the path is still clear. Eventually we make it to the table and Hal sits down with relief. Now there is only the voyage out of the restaurant at the end of the meal.
Minter Krotzer's prose has been published in Many Mountains Moving, Saint Ann's Review, Arkansas Review, Upstreet, Night Train, Before and After: Stories from New York (Norton), Louisiana in Words (Pelican Press), God Stories (Random House), and Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Twenty-Five Words or Fewer (Norton). She has received writing fellowships at the New School, where she received an MFA in creative nonfiction, Bennington College, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Squaw Valley Writers Conference. She was recently a Visiting Fellow at the Moulin à Nef in Auvillar, France.