Restaurant Epiphanies

Posted Thursday, 03 November 2022

There comes a moment in a person’s life where growth is inevitable. 

One Saturday several years ago, I had nothing special planned with my kids. We were home all afternoon while Mr. Suleiman, the painter, fixed some mouldy spots on the first floor. 

My husband was at the office. I feel free when my husband is out of the house because my true nature emerges; I act like a savage whenever he isn’t around. If he had an inkling of how disgusting I am, he might not want to spend his life devoted to me. 

I was loud and annoying. I peed with the bathroom door open. I slapped my daughter’s bouncy bum and laughed like a maniac when it jiggled. I tickled my son until he kicked my shin.

I made spaghetti in the kitchen for my kids while blasting 80s music. I sang along as loudly as possible, even though I am tone deaf. “The flowers you gave me are just about to die,” I screeched, unable to hit the high notes or any other notes, really. “When I think about what could have been, it makes me want to cru-eye.” I let out a tremendous belch then kept singing.

My younger daughter walked into the kitchen. “You know, Mr. Suleiman is upstairs.”

I froze. I had forgotten the painter was here. “Oh, my God. Do you think he heard me burp?”

“Everyone heard you burp. He’s painting and laughing quietly. He’s actually shaking, he’s laughing so much.”

My body flushed with shame. I had to grab the countertop because my legs transformed into limp spaghetti. Then a peculiar thought intruded. I would not dwell on this right now. I would not look into that place which I was afraid of. I would pretend that place didn’t exist. 

Over dinner at Hard Rock Café, my daughter relayed to her father how Mr. Suleiman reacted to my singing and belching. “I refuse to think about this,” I said, crossing my arms and turning my head. I studied a box of Biz Markie cereal hanging on the wall instead of pondering my humiliation.

Why do I tell this disgraceful story this month of all months, during glorious Restaurant Week? Because a moment of true acceptance came to me at our family’s favourite Lagos restaurant. Sitting there, surrounded by rock and roll memorabilia and plates of nachos, I came to terms with my limitations and, for the first time, embraced them.

And you know what? The next day Mr. Suleiman friended me on Facebook. Maybe he likes bad singers. Or, as my friend Vanessa pointed out, “You don’t think his woman burps?”

Without that moment at a restaurant, I would have suffered needlessly. I would have tortured myself about the disgrace that had befallen me. Instead, I made a new friend. And I decided that going forward, denial and avoidance would carry me through life in Nigeria. 

This is real, people. It’s not all puppy dogs, rainbows and happy endings. Sometimes the way forward is to close your eyes. As much as I have longed to solve mysteries and get to the heart of things, perhaps I’m not built for it. Why not leave the courage to lunatics? I can remain a cowardly wreck with a limited grasp on her emotions. 

I encourage you to visit some of the participating Restaurant Week restaurants for delicious food, personal growth and spiritual ascension. Perhaps you will see me there, staring at the wall art and refusing to think about my recent bad behaviour. If you do, treat me with compassion. It is exhausting to get through each day with this much wilful ignorance.

Mona Zutshi Opubor is an Indian-American and Nigerian writer. She holds an MSt in Literature and Arts from the University of Oxford, an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University and a BA in English Literature from Columbia University.

Read more at www.monazutshiopubor.com
 

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