With what appeared like two uneven eyes set above the ragged edges of its gaping maw, the lampshade peered toward the entrance of the restaurant.
Seeing it, I forgot I was hungry after a long day of shopping in Manhattan and jostling through the city in its underground subways. We were back in Brooklyn, home. Or at least, home to my daughter.
With her guidance, we have sampled many restaurants on our trips to the city. Each restaurant unique in its own way. Each one a culinary adventure. Most places making the most of their tiny share of real estate. This time we stopped at her favorite Japanese place.
While I attempted to decipher what the items on the menu were, I kept stealing glances at the lampshade. It hung over the long center table of the restaurant, smack in the middle of the whole place. Booths lined the wall on one side of the small venue.
We sat in one of the booths across from where the lampshade hung. I wanted a picture of it. I wanted to know what had happened to it. Had someone had too much sake and taken a big bite? And why was it still there? Why hadn’t it been thrown out, replaced to match its two whole companions hanging on either side of it?
The need to decide what I wanted from the unfamiliar menu kept me from taking out my phone to photograph it. That, and the young couple who sat directly beneath it occupying the space of one person on the bench, so close did they sit sharing their food from the bowls in front of them.
In between bites, he would give her gentle kisses. On her cheek, on her forehead. I could see his profile when he turned toward her, his features softened with tenderness. He ate with one hand, his left arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her even closer to him. In return, she smiled at him and bent her head toward him to accept his kisses.
They ate slowly, delicately balancing food on their chopsticks as they laughed, seeming to meld into one another, oblivious to the misshapen light fixture right above. When they finally left, I hurried and took some pictures before anyone else came to sit in their spot. Even though, any new customer would have had the choice of the entire restaurant, as ours was the only other table now occupied.
As I dug into my tempura shrimp and noodles, I wondered why the lampshade intrigued me. Was it because it hung there resolute and unashamed that it was lacking when compared to the other two? Was it because no matter that it was missing a portion of itself, it did not appear deficient or defective?
Or was it because even though it was not “healthy,” it was still capable of doing its job? That it was complete in its incompleteness, still able to diffuse the brightness and shield young lovers from its glaring light.