Are they complimentary? I wonder. It is not uncommon for bistros to offer complimentary hard-boiled eggs at the bar, but complimentary Lorna Doones in the bathroom, displayed on the floor, streaming from behind the toilet, seems odd and not inspired by any French tradition. There is, perhaps, a surplus of Lorna Doones, I speculate. Are the patrons of this particular Midtown Manhattan bistro—L’ENNUI EXQUIS—known for its cassoulet Toulousain and narcoleptic sommelier, being tested? Within the single-occupancy restroom, quaintly labeled “Monsieur,” is there a hidden camera? That would be, without question, a violation. My privacy would undoubtedly be invaded if I were to be filmed within a bathroom of a restaurant, seizing a package of Lorna Doones from the tiled floor adjacent to a trash can. Would I be judged harshly by the viewers of a YouTube video of me snatching up a pack of Lorna Doones from the floor of a bathroom at a Michelin-ignored bistro, known for its fearless clientele who regularly consume the happy hour wines? Would said viewers take into account that each “individually wrapped” pack of four “melt-in-your-mouth, buttery, golden shortbread cookies” is sealed, protecting the little cakes from whatever is on the floor of the bathroom at this bistro, known for its maître d’ who may or may not suffer from Tourette’s syndrome? (Upon arrival, earlier this evening, I informed the maître d’, Gaubert, that while I’d made a reservation for a party of two, a third would be joining my friend and me for dessert and digestifs. He replied: “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!”)
I stare at the eight packages of Lorna Doones, which may have been carefully arranged, and consider that I could be witnessing conceptual art, a collaboration between this bistro and Maurizio Cattelan—whose banana duct-taped to a wall fetched one hundred and twenty thousand dollars in Miami Beach, where conceptualism and fruit join forces—who will no doubt provide a certificate of authenticity and detailed instructions should anyone choose to purchase this satirical work, conceivably titled “Foodie,” and meticulously display these Lorna Doones, according to Cattelan’s diagrams, on the floor of their guest bathroom and, naturally, while gesturing to the packages of cookies, brag to their friends: “It’s an original.” But, seriously, why are there Lorna Doones on the floor of the bathroom? And why aren’t they Walkers, “the world’s finest shortbread,” shortbread that is, emphatically, “by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen”? I contemplate Royal Warrants and ponder to whom Lorna Doones might be “by appointment.” The cookie was introduced by Nabisco in nineteen twelve—“by appointment to Founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low,” I decide.
It occurs to me that my friend, Stephen—the “S” is silent—is sitting alone at our table awaiting my return and has been for far too long, as I stare, tempted by the “easy-to-open” snack packs, endeavoring to make sense of their current situation on the floor of the bathroom at this cozy neighborhood bistro, known for its cramped seating, moules marinières, and questionable Crémant de Bourgogne. …I resolve to photograph the abandoned Lorna Doones, envisioning myself a sort of Diane Arbus, replacing identical twins with identical sweets. I determine that the photo must be black and white to better capture the state of affairs before me, the powerlessness of Lorna Doones, the isolation and desperation of displaced baked goods. I fantasize that my photograph will become famous, a lifetime print commanding six hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars at a Christie’s auction, after I’ve died of “appropriate causes.”
Upon returning to our table, I reveal the photograph to Stephen—a pedantic confidant—to which he responds: “Man Ray?”
“Stephen,” I say, momentarily forgetting that the “S” is silent, “I took this picture in the bathroom of this very bistro, minutes ago.”
“Impossible,” he replies, dismissively. “Why would there be Lorna Doones on the floor of the bathroom at this bistro?”
“Stephen,” I contend, instantly recalling that the “S” is silent, “that’s the million-dollar question.”
“These days,” he points out, “that’s the billion-dollar question. And, remember, dear friend, the ’S’ is silent. My name is pronounced: ‘tee·vn.’”
“I’ll bet the maître d’ knows why there are Lorna Doones on the floor of the bathroom,” I assert.
“What’s your plan of action?” Tee·vn asks.
I approach the maître d’ and probe: “Excuse me, sir, but why are there Lorna Doones on the floor of the bathroom?”
Without making eye contact, Gaubert ripostes: “We ran out of madeleines.”
“Of course,” I concede.