"Go on," I say, looking around for a waiter. "Finish it."
She clears her throat and staring steadily at the paper tries to read the rest of it in a voice below a whisper. " 'Fuck him... Fuck the nigger on the wall...'" She falters again, then reads the last sentence, sighing. " 'Black man... is... de... debil?'"
The couple at the next table have slowly turned to gaze over at us. The man looks aghast, the woman has an equally horrified expression on her face. I stare her down, glaring, until she looks back at her f**king salad.
"Well, Patrick," Bethany says, clearing her throat, trying to smile, handing the paper back to me.
"Yes?" I ask. "Well?"
"I can see that" - she stops, thinking - "that your sense of... social injustice is" - she clears her throat again and looks down - "still intact."
I take the paper back from her and slip it in my pocket and smile, still trying to keep a straight face, holding my body upright so she won't suspect me of cringing. Our waiter comes over to the table and I ask him what kinds of beer they serve.
"Heineken, Budweiser, Amstel light," he recites.
"Yes?" I ask, staring at Bethany, gesturing for him to continue.
"That's, um, all, sir," he says.
"No Corona? No Kirin? No Grolsch? No Morretti?" I ask, confused, irate.
"I'm sorry, sir, but no," he says cautiously. "Only Heineken, Budweiser, Amstel Light."
"That's crazy," I sigh. "I'll have a J&B on the rocks. No, an Absolut martini. No, a J&B straight up."
"And I'll have another San Pellegrino," Bethany says.
"I'll have the same thing;" I quickly add, my leg jerking up then down uncontrollably beneath the table.
"Okay. Would you like to hear the specials?" he asks.
"By all means," I spit out, then, calming down, smile reassuringly at Bethany.
"You're sure?" He laughs.
"Please," I say, unamused, studying the menu.
"For appetizers I have the sun-dried tomatoes and golden caviar with poblano chilies and I also have a fresh endive soup - "
"Wait a minute, wait a minute," I say, holding up a hand, stopping him. "Hold on a minute."
"Yes sir?" the waiter asks, confused.
"You have? You mean the restaurant has," I correct him. "You don't have any sun-dried tomatoes. The restaurant does. You don't have the poblano chilies. The restaurant does. Just, you know, clarify."
The waiter, stunned, looks at Bethany, who handles the situation deftly by asking him, "So how is the endive soup served?"
"Er... cold," the waiter says, not fully recovered from my outburst, sensing he's dealing with someone very, very on edge.
He stops again, uncertain.
"Go on," I urge. "Please go on."
"It's served cold," he starts again. "And for entrees we have monkfish with mango slices and red snapper sandwich on brioche with maple syrup and" - he checks his pad again - "cotton."
"Mmmm, sounds delicious. Cotton, mmmm," I say, rubbing my hands together eagerly. "Bethany?"
"I'll have the ceviche with leeks and sorrel," Bethany says. "And the endive with... walnut dressing."
"Sir?" the waiter asks tentatively.
"I'll have... " I stop, scan the menu quickly. "I'll have the squid with pine nuts and can I have a slice of goat cheese, of chevre " - I glance over at Bethany to see if she flinches at my mispronunciation - "with that and some... oh, some salsa on the side."
The waiter nods, leaves, we're left alone.
"Well." She smiles, then notices the table slightly shaking. "What's... wrong with your leg?"
"My leg? Oh." I look down at it, then back at her. "It's... the music. I like the music a lot. The music that's playing."
"What is it?" she asks, tilting her head, trying to catch a refrain of the New Age Muzak coming from the speakers hooked to the ceiling over the bar.
"It's... I think it's Belinda Carlisle," I guess. "I'm not sure."
"But..." she starts, then stops. "Oh, forget it."
"But I don't hear any singing." She smiles, looks down demurely.
I hold my leg still and pretend to listen. "But it's one of her songs," I say, then lamely add, "I think it's called 'Heaven Is a Place on Earth.' You know it."