Old is In Now
Nick was drowning in sound in the wide open restaurant. Noise bounced off cement floor and echoed in the beams of the high ceiling. Claustrophobia suffocated him despite the grandeur of the space. Across the table his Grandfather, squinting, was holding the menu three inches from his face.
“Take Grandpa for lunch,” his mother demanded. “He never gets out of that home. Go to the old diner he likes.”
But Nick had been lured by craft beer and molecular gastronomy. “I’m going to show him something new,” he’d said. He felt like an ass now.
“Grandpa, let me take you somewhere else. It’s too modern in here for you, I’m sorry.”
“I met your Grandmother right over there.” He nodded towards the pizza oven.
“What? This place just opened a month ago.”
“She was running the loom and it broke. They called for the mechanic, which was me, to come. I hated the looms. They were the worst to fix and they broke all the time. I was dragging my feet and made her wait a long time. She was new you see, so I thought I could get away with being an ass… But then I saw her, and I knew I was going to marry her.” His grandfather was staring somewhere in the middle distance.
“A loom?” Nick looked around the hip restaurant with its industrial style tables and chairs, and realized his Mother was right. His grandfather really was losing it.
“You young people, you think you invented everything.” Grandpa put his menu down and looked at Nick over the top of his glasses. “Did you think they built this place to look this old?”
“Old is in now, I suppose. This used to be a cotton mill. I worked here for twenty years, long before you were born. See, look over there,” he said, pointing to the back of the restaurant. “That was where the office was. But over there,” he shifted in his seat, and pointed to the front windows looking out over the brick courtyard. Nick watched as his grandfather’s knobby, arthritic fingers became straight and strong before his eyes. “Out there, that’s where the bales of yarn came in. I wonder…” he closed his eyes and breathed deep. “Close your eyes. If you try, you can still smell it.”
Nick closed his eyes and the scent of garlic and olive oil disappeared, replaced by the woody freshness of cotton yarn, and the salt of the laborers sweat. He saw the looms like mules, alive and rippling with power, by the light of the grimy mullioned windows. The indie-folk music faded and he could hear the hum of the machines, the screech of the steam whistle, and the shouts of the workers above the din.
“I can see it, Grandpa,” he said, reaching across the table to squeeze those swollen, broken fingers between his own athletic ones.