Love and chocolate have a curious relationship. Chocolate can either console a lonely heart or ripen a full one. I had rich dark chocolate on my mind (and a bar of Lindt chocolate with sea salt in my drawer in case of emergency) as I went to bed. However, instead of being taken to chocolate heaven I spent my night tossing and turning dreaming that I was chasing a man without a face. “Try and catch him,” I could hear Grams say, maybe he will give you something sweet. Sweeter than chocolate, I wanted to ask? But then I opened my eyes. I was panicked. I reached for the emergency Lindt chocolate in my drawer.
Twice so far I had been eluded by a man in my life the first was my friend Armand who had overnight turned into an enigma and the second was the proverbial boy next door (Javier)who was anything but familiar and whose presence in my life far more ambiguous. I can’t have all this uncertainty, I thought and without thinking I pulled out my phone and dialed. A groggy voice picked up the phone.
“Hello”, he said. I recognized this voice. I gulped, hoping that I hadn’t inadvertently called Javier. God I hoped I did not call Javier in the middle of the night. Note to self; never play Russian roulette with your phone.
“Hello Tasha,” it was Armand.
“Armand where are you?”
“It’s three a.m. I’m in bed.”
“I’m so sorry Armand,” I stammered. “I hope I wasn’t interrupting anything?”
“Yes – I always answer the phone when I’m in the throes of passion.”
“We’ve all been so worried about you.”
“I know…I know. I’ve received countless messages from you all. Tell you what, let’s get together for dinner tomorrow.”
The next morning I felt embarrassed but immensely better. I decided there were two silver linings to this situation first that I would get to have dinner at one my favorite restaurants, Oleana and second I’d find out what was going on with Armand and this keep my promise to Rukhsana auntie.
I arrived early for dinner at sat perusing my menu. The décor at Oleana is understated and rustic. The cuisine features many Arabic and Mediterranean inspired tapas and entrees. As Armand came into the restaurant I could feel a blush of embarrassment fall across my face as I replayed last night’s phone call. Armand for his part looked good in scruffy jeans and a charcoal sweater, if not a little thin. His sweater seemed to hang loosely off his shoulder. As soon as he gave me a kiss hello I knew that everything was OK.
“I’m so embarrassed,” I started out saying.
“Don’t be. In a way I’m flattered that everyone has been so worried about me. I never felt so popular. Slowly and over many courses the story came out,
Fried Mussels, Hot Peppers & Turkish Tarator Sauce…
Whipped Feta with Sweet & Hot Peppers…
Mushroom Musakhan with Leeks, Chestnuts & Sumac…
Tamarind Beef, Smokey Eggplant Purée & Pinenut…
Lemon Chicken, Za’atar & Turkish Cheese Pancake…
The story came out. I listened and I savored. Each one of these tapas was a symphony of flavor and with each succulent bite, I found out about the series of unfortunate events that had practically rendered Armand AWOL. Armand had been called for jury duty for a very routine case, which ended up not being so routine and he and twelve others were sequestered for a week. Being in such close proximity to his fellow jurors he came home with an awful virus rendering bed ridden and miserable and leaking at both ends.
“But you looked fine at the ballet?”
“That was my younger brother. A year and half apart we are how do you say it, Irish twins. He was here on business and was stuck babysitting me for the weekend. I told him and his wife to stop being hermits me and go out on the town.”
At the end of the tale I was feeling immensely better until he mentioned Javier.
“I heard you met someone interesting at the ballet?”
“Where did you hear that?”
“Gypsy eyes see all,” he said cracking a huge smile
I decided to change the subject by ordering desert. We finished with Turkish-Style Profiteroles (with Brown Butter Creme, Sesame Cashew Caramel and Halva). As we left the restaurant and went our separate ways I gave him a big bear hug.
“At least now Ruhksana auntie will be relived to know you’re safe and sound.”
“Please,” he said. “Tell her I ran off with an exotic dancer and I’m trapped at the bottom of a love den.”
“Maybe I will… and she will turn your wee, wee to ash,” I said, giving him my best gypsy eyes.
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