My eyes darted around the room searching for something to steal my focus. My mind had been racing ever since I left Benedict’s house this morning. I could find nothing that would capture my attention more than the meeting that was about to ensue. I hadn’t seen Millie for nearly seven months. Once she started getting serious with Jack we saw less of each other. Sure, she was around when everyone got together, but never just the two of us. And then, when she joined her family on her parent’s retirement tour around the world, I hadn’t spoken to her beyond a few WhatsApp messages she sent from the occasional architectural monument. I responded to all of them with glib enthusiasm, but in truth I was never really excited for her and seeing pictures just made it worse. I suppose I was jealous. Not of the travel, but that someone else got to be with her. Even though Jack only flew in to meet them intermittently it was his right to join, not mine. That's what actually bothered me.
Nonetheless, here I sit, eagerly and fearfully awaiting Millie's arrival. She called me right when her plane landed asking to meet. I spent no time thinking of the perfect place for the two of us to catch up. While she was out of town, our favorite design firm, Roman and Williams, had opened its new store and restaurant, RW Guild. Failing to lose myself in the murky blue walls, I accidentally chuckled out loud as I remembered the first time I met Millie. It was during an ice breaker for some freshmen group we'd fecklessly joined; one of those friend finding bingo games during which you had to find someone with the same favorite movie. I hadn’t met many people who had seen Practical Magic, let alone people who actually liked it. Why would I have; it's a terrible movie. Still, I love it. And it just so happened that the seventh person I spoke to that evening loved it too.
Ever since then, the two of us have enjoyed watching the few movies for which Roman and Williams had designed sets during the late 90's and early 2000's. The movies themselves are all pretty subpar, but we never cared because the scenery was so captivating. In truth, I'd placed Millie and me, and our theoretical kids, in the kitchen Roman and Williams created for Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock to cast spells in more than once. In my mind it was a place for the happiest of Saturday morning pancake breakfasts, rather than one for expelling demons as it had been in Practical Magic. I'd seen the two of us in the same shoes as Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore in Duplex too, falling in love with some decrepit New York brownstone that on the surface was a perfect Aesthetic era time capsule, but was really a ploy to trick innocent souls into shelling out big bucks on smoke and mirrors. I hadn't placed us in any scenes from Zoolander, even though I'm sure that was the firm's biggest blockbuster, and I didn't plan to.
As I progressed in my architecture studies and Roman and Williams progressed from set designers to the restaurant designers of New York City, I would drag Millie out to whatever one of their works had just opened. Our senior year, they were particularly popular, and I accidentally tripled the amount we usually spent on food. Especially hard-hitting was the $120 pig roast at La Fayette. Price tag aside, that meal was perfect for its place. Not because it was expensive, but because it was silly and fun. People don’t often think about there being comedy in food, but what sort of reaction should one expect from a decent person when serving them suckling pig other than a deep-seeded twinkling smile rooted in sheer delight?
Everything can tell a story; most things just take themselves a bit too seriously. Roman and Williams ‘critics be damned’ approach captured our spirits in a way no other design firm we knew of could. They’re weird, but they’re not wrong. Everything is a bit off with nothing being out of place. The stage they set is so totally thoroughly , as a diner at one their restaurants, it's hard to remember they're not actually in the kitchen preparing your dinner. They’ve always served as reminder to me of the importance of story telling. Right now, they're a reminder to me that there is more to the story of my life than pure theory. In a minute, Millie is going to come walking through that door in the flesh. What on earth am I doing here?