The last time I moved into a community where I knew absolutely no one was my freshman year in college—so long ago that I’m not going to be bothered counting the years; let’s just say decades. This stranger-in-a-strange-land experience is humbling yet inspiring. Humbling in the recognition that you are not a piece, unimportant in the personal puzzle of others. Inspiring in that new connections are seemingly attainable, new faces and new places are fun, intriguing.
My realtors were the first connection I made in Key West—I could not have been any luckier, and I could not be any more grateful for having made that connection. They are smart, gracious, generous, humorous. I doubt that I could ever be as welcoming of a stranger as they have been. On one of my many walks with them, leisurely strolls through beautiful neighborhoods, we ran into a friend of theirs walking his dog—a manically happy and confused gay man, probably 10 years younger than myself, probably high. I liked him immediately, a character right out of my 1980’s, downtown, Baltimore years. This man owned a successful restaurant (more Baltimore memories), number 1 on my realtor’s list of favorite Key West eateries, popular also with a handful of celebrities. Days later, even though my new friends said they would take me there soon, I went to The Flaming Buoy Filet Company on my own.
Many Key West restaurants are small and fill up fast and I knew that to be true of The Flaming Buoy. I like to go to a new place early and eat at the bar—the bars are always set up for diners and those seats fill up fast as well. I readied for the evening, hair and make-up and dress as if I were going on a date; and really, I was—a date with myself as well as a blind date. I was nervous, school-girl nervous, would this man recognize me, would it be so obvious that I was seeking friendship, seeking someone to talk with over dinner? Well, he did recognize me—and could probably care less about my insecurities, and was as happy as when I had met him on the street. I was the only customer in the restaurant for at least 20 minutes, and the owner/friend, his young staff of 2 or 3 and I, laughed the entire time. I sucked down a tall and sweet iced coffee, drooled over the plump, perfectly grilled “key west pinks” that preceded my perfectly seasoned chili and ribs. I said to these handsome and charming men;
“You guys are so funny. I love you, I love to laugh like this.”
They looked at each other and burst again.
“We’re high!” they almost screamed.
And I almost screamed back.
New girl jitters squelched—for the evening, anyway. I went back to the Flaming Buoy for the chicken and waffles—fabulous. Even more fabulous—the chocolate quesadilla.