Happy Hour at PF Chang’s

Author | Marianne Peel

When he asks me why I piled the green peppers
into the side bowl
I want to tell him the truth:
That they repeat on me, make me belch. 
That my middle age gut cannot handle them anymore. 

Instead, I tell him I just don’t like them,
that I forgot to order the cashew almond chicken
minus the peppers.
I don’t tell the truth,
because he leaned in when he took my order.

Because he pointed out tasty items,
touched them on the menu, between my hands.
Because he sat down next to me.
Because he mixed just the right amount
of hot mustard in the special sauce to make it sizzle.

These college boys are well-trained
to romance the middle-aged clientele. 
They never ask Just one? when they seat me here. 
They don’t make me feel alone and lonely on a Monday night.
Poor lady, eating all by herself. Not here.

I could sit here for hours,
sampling exotic teas
and maybe order a mai tai. Or two.
I could practice picking up cashew pieces
with my chopsticks. 

I know he is schooled to look at me hungrily, to whet my appetite
with the five o’clock shadow beard
that other reputable restaurants do not allow, 
to look at me with those I want to dance eyes.
Calls me “miss” not “m’am.” 

He keeps coming back, refilling my Passion Fruit tea.
Leaning in.
He doesn’t seem to mind
that the sauce from the lettuce wraps
oozes down my fingers, onto my wrists even.
My fortune cookie tells me
You will soon be surrounded by good friends and laughter.
Again, he returns to my table.
Lingering. Leaning in. 
Asking me if I am satisfied.

Perhaps I will stay for dessert.

About the Author | Marianne Peel taught English at middle and high school for 32 years. She is now retired, doing Field Instructor work at Michigan State University. She recently won 1st prize for poetry in the Spring 2016 Edition of the Gadfly Literary Magazine. She also won the Pete Edmonds Poetry Prize. In addition, Marianne has been published in Muddy River Review; Silver Birch Press; Eastlit; Persephone’s Daughters; Encodings: A Feminist Literary Journal; Write to Heal; Writing for Our Lives: Our Bodies—Hurts, Hungers, Healing; Mother Voices; Metropolitan Woman Magazine; Ophelia’s Mom; Jellyfish Whispers; Remembered Arts Journal. Marianne also received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal and Turkey. She is a flute playing vocalist, learning to play ukulele, who is raising four daughters. She shares her life with her partner Scott, whom she met in Istanbul while studying in Turkey. Marianne also taught teachers in Guizhou Province, China for three summers, and she also toured several provinces in China with the Valpraiso Symphony, playing both flute and piccolo, in January of 2016. Recently, Marianne was invited to participate in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop in June 2016. This fall, she journeyed to Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, where she took part in an amazing Narrative Poetry Writing Seminar.

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