So, I know I've written about the fact that I am not a very social person. I don't particularly enjoy parties or big shindigs; I rarely go out to eat with friends unless it's one-on-one or one-on-two; I don't tend to go to group activities; I enjoy my alone time a lot.
Last night, I was engaged in a work-related activity with some of my fellow cast members. When we finished, I was quite ready to go home. Very impromptu, one of my friends said she wanted to go out to eat to celebrate her birthday, which is today. It was very last minute, and I wasn't particularly in the mood. However, I like this friend a lot and felt it might be nice to support her on the eve of her special day.
I called my mom to let her know I would be late (yes, even at 40 I call my mom if I'm going to be late so she won't worry) and headed off to the place we were eating to meet my friends.
The place was a small plate/wine bar. Not my kind of place at all. I freely admit I have little sophistication or couth (plus I don't drink), and when I go out to eat, I am in little mood to savor or nibble; I want a full, big meal at a cheap price. Sometimes I think small plate/wine bar establishments come off as a bit pretentious. I don't fault those who enjoy them; they just aren't my personal bag.
We were seated at an outdoor table, and the sun was setting and the evening was cooling off. There were only six of us in the group - four of my co-workers, the birthday girl's sister, and me - and that was nice. Six is about all I can handle in group settings.
As suspected, the prices were more than I would normally wish to pay (yes, I am cheap - ask Jonah, lol), and I saw that the place did not take separate checks, and I had no cash, so I fretted about whether that would be a problem (I always hate figuring out the bill and who owes who what at the end of a group dinner). But a friend agreed to charge it all on her credit card and have each of us pay her back (I actually wrote her a check at the end of the night (yes, some of us still write checks occasionally. I have not quite entered the 21st century.).
We each decided to order at least one small plate and then just share among ourselves, which I think is kind of the point of these small plate establishments. Some people got two or three; I just got one (like I said, I'm cheap).
My friends, all who drink, ordered a bottle of wine, although I think only four of them actually imbibed. The wait staff was very friendly and joked around with us. We thought, being the loud, obnoxious actor-types that we are, that they would find us annoying or, at the very least, that the other patrons around us would, but everybody around us seemed unbothered by us, and the wait staff seemed to find us charming and funny.
Slowly throughout the evening, the wait staff would bring us our small plate dishes a couple at a time. Normally I rush through my meals (like I said, not much couth), but the dishes were meant to be savored and shared slowly and casually.
The dishes themselves were, indeed, small, but very good. Among the ones I recall were beets and lettuce leaves, mushrooms and brie, scallops and pasta, mussels in a tomato-type sauce, pork tenderloins and corn, an apple walnut salad, curried cauliflower, Cajun green beans, asparagus wrapped in bacon, and a cheese plate (with four different cheeses, apricot compote, almonds, apple wedges, and some crunchy thing I couldn't identify.
I particularly enjoyed the cheese plate (my selection), which had some of the best blue cheese I have ever tasted; the mushrooms and brie; the pork tenderloins; and the curried cauliflower. Everything else was good, too, except I didn't care for the Cajun green beans (well-prepared, but too spicy for my taste).
As we talked and shared and ate and savored, I realized how much I enjoy these friends of mine. There was a very light breeze blowing, there were people all around us laughing and chatting, and I became acutely aware of just how much fun I was having hanging out with friends and just how much I was enjoying myself and my time with them.
We, of course, laughed and told stories and shared mutual experiences, and at one point we each told a story or two about when we first met the birthday girl or our favorite memory of her or what we liked about her. Some were serious, some were funny, one was even acted-out by another cast member. And at the end of the evening she said how her birthday meal with her couldn't have been any more perfect or lovely.
My friends ordered another bottle of wine (a different one this time), and we ordered three dessert plates among ourselves (myself included): a chocolate torte, bruleed bananas with a Nutella mousse, and red wine-soaked Oreos with ice cream. I didn't partake in the Oreos and ice cream, but the torte was phenomenal, and I quite enjoyed the bananas and mousse.
After our meal was complete, we just sat talking and laughing and enjoying one another. Jonah called, and I handed the phone to a mutual friend that Jonah has a very innocent crush on as a joke. They talked for a bit, and then my friend handed the phone to me. I talked with Jonah for a bit and then said I would call him back in about twenty minutes when I got home (which actually turned out to be about an hour later).
We just stayed and talked and laughed and sometimes grew very serious, and even though the establishment was closed by this time, the wait staff seemed in no hurry to be rid of us. And as I shared my times with these friends of mine, I became very, very conscious of how much I value and love each one of them (even the birthday girl's sister, who I barely know), and I thought, "This must be what heaven is like - this feeling of love I feel for these dear friends of mine who have touched my life in various and important ways."
And I looked around at them, none of them active in the LDS Church (although they all grew up in it) but me (who has been excommunicated, so I guess technically I can't be considered an active member either) - three of us gay - some of us drinking - and I thought, "By the LDS Church's standards, none of us would be considered bound for the 'highest kingdom,' and yet these are all such good souls."
And I thought, "These are the people I want to spend eternity with. My husband is who I want to spend eternity with." I have a feeling wherever I end up in the afterlife, it will be a great place, and these people will be with me, and I will be very happy.
Last night was a beautiful, wonderful, lovely night. And to think I almost missed it. I wouldn't normally spend $22 on just myself for a meal (which is what I ended up paying - I told you I was cheap!), but last night I did not care. $22 is just money. The feelings I felt and carried; the experiences I had; the time I spent with these dear friend; the love that filled my spirit; the realization of how dear these friends really are to me; the memory of that glorious evening - those are mine to hold on to forever.
Heaven. Sheer heaven.