She caught me staring from the corner of my eye. I quickly turned away nervously and looked down with a slight smile. This happened a couple times through the evening until she just walked over and looked dead in my eyes. This time, I couldn’t avoid eye contact.
“Come here often?”
“Umm, no, I’m not from here,” I replied awkwardly.
“How did you find us?”
“Well, I’m a foodie, and I’m discovering new cool places all the time. And I drawn by the cool music and hip crowd.”
“Well, good, I’m glad you found us – Lost and Found.”
“So how long have you been working here?”
“As long as the place been open since last fall. What’s your thoughts?”
“It’s an interesting spot with a lot of feminine touch. Can’t decide whether if it’s a bar or club.”
“Neither. It’s like a nightclub with VIP tables and speciality cocktails. It’s like a bar cuz we’ve got the Hornets on the big screen. But really it’s more like a lounge – an awesome place to chillax and meet new people.”
I looked around at the living room style seating area and millennials enjoying exotic beverages in the patio soaking up the sun.
“Can’t agree with you more. This is quite a rad spot.”
“So glad you like it. I’m Amy by the way.”
“Oh, Chito.” I replied abashedly, realizing I had turned into a nervous wreck. I reached out to shake her hand and she returned it gracefully, tickling her fingers in my palm.
I continued to sip on my soju vodka while gazing in awe at the people coming and going.
Then as I enjoyed my final sip from my martini glass, I heard a whisper from behind.
“I get off work at 7pm. Haven’t eaten all day, I’m famished.”
“Cool, ummm, do you wanna grab something to eat?”
“Not a bad idea. I like Korean by the way.”
We found ourselves across the street at the Seoul Food Meat Company.
The interior was stylish and relaxing with rope lights hanging from the ceiling.
The menu was simple and interesting. We pick the meats and the sides and everything is shared. Amy ordered the fried tilapia with sesame seeds and tempura sauce and corn on the cob with parmesan cheese. I ordered the smoked brisket and the fire chicken – kimchi hot and smothered in mozzarella cheese.The soju came out right away. Been the elder in the table, I assumed the obligatory role of swirling the green bottle, then pouring the shots for the two of us. “To our new friendship,” I beamed. Then we both emptied our shot glass in unison, savoring the nutty, sweet potato taste. While I drank my soju straight up, Amber insisted on sipping her clear, colorless beverage spiked in strawberry. She claimed the natural tasted like gasoline. I don’t know what gasoline taste like, but I’ve certainly ingested diesel before – been splashed in it many times when fueling my truck. I don’t think soju taste bad at all, but I understand why she wants it to taste even sweeter. Actually it was mild and fairly neutral with no after taste. It has a higher alcohol level than beer, but usually less than vodka. The benefit of soju is that there’s low alcohol level, about 20%, so you’re not feeling the after taste. So you’re drinking a lot of it, before it sneaks up on you. Soju definitely goes where vodka cannot tread. That’s why it’s the staple of Korea, and now has become the most popular drink in the world. “I bet you didn’t know that,” I mentioned to Amber. “Really, I would have thought it was the margarita with a lime wedge.”
“So you’re not from here or anywhere in the Carolinas. You must be a Northerner?”
“Not quite, Washington, DC, the big capital city straddling Baltimore and Northern Virginia.”
“Well, I’m not from here either. I’m from Greenville, SC, about an hour and a half south. And I have a long drive ahead.”
“Geez, well maybe we should lighten up on the soju.”
“Tell me about it. Lemme make a quick phone call to my godmother.”
Amy picked up the phone and speed dialed her loved one. “Ok great, please give Harmoni a big hug for me. See you tomorrow.”
I chewed softly on my food and stared inquisitively.
“Good, my godmother is watching my baby girl tonight. And she’ll take her to daycare tomorrow. So, I can stay in town.”
“Oh, super. sounds wonderful. How old is she?”
“Two. I had her young when I was just 20.”
Wow, she’s my son’s age. At this point, I felt like a filthy, old man in a dirty raincoat.
“So what kind of work do you do?”
“Well, I’m an entrepreneur. I make websites and I also drive a truck.”
I am impressed by how Charlotte is expanding into a world class city with a wide variety of ethnic food. The Queen city’s impressive skyline is growing by the day and there’s so much to see and do here (Charlotte is known as the Queen City because it was named for Queen Charlotte, King George III of Great Britain’s wife.)
She drove me 5 miles away to the Pilot Truck stop in Statesville Ave.
She parked her sedan directly in front of my truck. Then we went straight to the cab and ate the left over fire chicken and drank some mango flavored spritzer.
Then she went to bed and I gave her a calm, soothing massage.
At this moment, total awe and unbelief set in. What was an old geezer like me doing with a hot, young chic like her?
It was going to be a long, enjoyable night. And that load I was supposed to pickup first thing in the morning – that would have to wait.