There I am, sitting on a plastic chair in a small, local restaurant. The lead singer of the Mariachi band, that has been serenading me for the past 10 minutes, is sweating profoundly as his belly follows the rhythm of the guitars. The embarrassment spreads through my entire body, making my head look like a tomato that’s about to explode.
As my boyfriend and I were preparing for some Netflix quality time, our friends called and invited us to dinner. They have been long time residents of this sleepy island, and know of all the great places to visit. So, since all previous outings had been lots of fun, we got of our couch, put on a somewhat more stylish outfit and made our way to the restaurant where we were meeting them.
As residents of an island that’s also known as Diver’s Paradise, and employees of the island’s largest dive center, we tend to hang out with lots of tourists from every continent. Fairly often we get invited by some better-of holiday seekers to enjoy a free meal and some care free company. And, since tourists tend to stick to the touristy places, so do we.
Not this night though. As we pulled up to the restaurant, we noticed the bright fluorescent lighting, the plastic furniture and lack of divers, who spend their days dressed in wetsuits ready for an underwater adventure at all time.
We were seated at a plastic table, on plastic chairs with plastic cutlery. The waitress, a magnificent lady called Ruth, walked over to our table and asked us whether we wanted today’s starter: goat soup. Indulging ourselves in this experiment, we all agreed to a cup of soup followed by a local beef stew. A little later the food arrived, and it was some of the best food I’ve ever had. So damn tasty! The fries were crisp, the meat fell off the bone, and the goat soup was to die for. Once again our friends had succeeded in blowing our minds.
Not long after we finished that delicious meal, three men walked in. Two were carrying a guitar, and the third reminded me of a Maneki Neko, or Japanese fortune cat. His piercing eyes searched the room and landed on my friends. With a vague smile, the Asian talisman greeted our table and he was soon engaged in an amusing conversation with our company.
About two songs into their repertoire, they stopped. The room went silent as no one understood what had happened. The Maneki Neko turned around and started pacing towards me. His eyes fixed on mine, I felt my cheeks burning up. There he was, right in front of me, his companions following their leader, guitars by their side. About three inches of air was left between the two of us when he stopped, snapped his fingers and started singing. His voice was dark, not at all what I expected from this short man. His eyes still fixed on mine, he sang and sang and sang. Everyone in the little restaurant turned their heads, and all of a sudden I was right at the center of this show. Not understanding what the heck was happening, I just clapped along, cursing my friends for whatever they had told this man.
About six very, very long songs later, the show was finally over. As his voice quietened and his companions stopped caressing the guitars, I could finally breath again. I had no clue whatever this was, but man was I happy for it to be over. As everyone applauded, I regained my normal color and started to feel like myself again. But it wasn’t over just yet. Maneki Neko bridged the three inch distance between his belly and my hesitant body and started kissing my cheeks. The color was right back, I was a tomato all over again. After he was done kissing me, ALL the other customers of the little restaurant walked over and started kissing me as well. As I thanked all of them for god knows what, I shot a dirty look at my friends whose faces were covered in tears of laughter. Through sobs of excitement, they informed me about their earlier conversation with the Mariachi singer. They had led him to believe it was my birthday. And all of the six songs were happy birthday songs in numerous languages ranging from Mexican to Papiamentu.
What can I say.. My revenge will be very sweet!