"Sir, I'm sorry there are no available seats yet," the maître d’ of the restaurant told me upon arriving.
"Oh. I have a reservation," I said, feeling the hunger pangs in my tummy.
"Sir, is it okay if you wait for 10 to 15 minutes?" she said.
"What do you mean wait?" I replied, my voice dropping dangerously low. "I called and you guys said I have a table ready."
"Sir, I apologize for the problem," she said. The maître d’ could see I was getting upset.
I was tired, sleepy, and my patience was dangerously thin. I had been flying to two different cities in the past two days and since I'm no longer a spring chicken, fatigue was taking its toll on me. That, plus two margaritas, a mojito, and three hours of sleep last night.
"Would it be okay for you to wait? We have tables outside and we will give you a complimentary drink."
I don't need your free drink, I wanted to say, but I forced myself to calm down. I was in Davao for work and I wanted to try Claude's Le Café de Ville, which they say is one of the best restaurants in the city.
I decided to let the incident pass and enjoy the night. I sat at a table outside and ordered a glass of kir. I read a few pages of Javier Marías' book When I Was Mortal while waiting. I was in the middle of a story about a mother auditioning for her first porn movie when I was called to transfer inside. It was only then that I noticed the charm of the place.
Claude has been offering delicious French cuisine to Davaoeños for 15 years. The place was tiny, and it was reminiscent of those small Parisian cafés with wooden interiors and soft lighting. It was owned by a Frenchman who migrated to Davao and he wanted to build a place the reminded him of home.
I ordered a Niçoise salad, frog legs sautéed in olive oil and garlic, and their spécialité, roasted quail stuffed with baked caramelized apples and foie gras. I chose a bottle of rosé d'Anjou from the Loire region in France to go with the food.
The food was exquisite, each one a delight. I loved the quail dish the most, the sweetness of the apples balanced the richness of the foie gras which made for quite a wonderful mix. The wine was light, crisp, and fruity.
As I sat quietly eating in silence, I realized sometimes, there is no better place and time than the here and the now.
That I liked being alone in a tiny French restaurant in a strange city on a rainy night. That good food and good wine are some of the best things in this world. That I feel blessed to be able to enjoy this particular moment.
Derf once told me he was surprised by how much I get addicted to a song.
"I'm a passionate guy," I explained.
Derf is a très sérieux person. He likes to quietly brood in a corner, and you would more likely see a frown on his face rather than a smile. You have too many rules, I told him once, you're too rigid, too uptight.
"I get intense with things, D. Parang nilulunod ko ang sarili ko sa kanila (It's like I drown myself in them); whether it's a beautiful film, or a poem, or food, or sex," I said. And love, I thought to myself.
"Yeah I know Kane. That's why you're quite endearing."
"Is there any other way to live?" I asked. "I must admit I can be quite the hedonist. The desire to cram into a single lifetime all the pleasures in the world, knowing it is not possible because we are mortal. Finite. But still, I try."
"That is why when I work, I really work. When I party, I really party. When I drink, I really drink. And when I have sex, well… let us not go there," I said and laughed.
"I want to enjoy my life too," Derf said quietly.
"You can D," I told him and smiled. "The world is our oyster, a great man once said. It's never too late. So what will it be?"
"Well, I guess oysters here we come," Derf said laughing, and for the first time since we became friends, I thought I saw a glimpse of joy in his face.