Lunch at the cafe, alone. At long last. My thoughts and I dine together. I’m Jill and I want lunch.
The host wants me to sit in any one of the dingy corners and ignore the brighter, roomier booths in the centre. I make a wry face so he concedes and lets me take the bright corner. The cafe isn’t even crowded after all.
They enter some five minutes after I’ve settled down, by which time I’ve placed my order and am sipping my wine. I notice him first. All I see is the back of their heads and a profile view in a flash.
He looks familiar…for a vague instant. In that not so nice way that makes you glad you spotted the person first and hope they don’t notice you back. He probably looks a little like the friend of someone I want to forget. That’s still too close for comfort but not so close that I want to scat. She’s totally unfamiliar in a familiar way. That is to say, she’s the typical nice-looking, a tad too ‘healthy’ to be one of the stick-insect-model-types. An Indian woman. A pretty Indian woman.
What strikes me is their clothes. Ah, his clothes. He’s wearing a mildly striped full-sleeved shirt with cotton trousers. It’s not quite formal enough to be workwear but it seems a little too dressy for Saturday. Unless, ah of course. One of those dates that he feels he must dress up a bit for. Still dude, it’s just nearing 2pm, that shirt is Saturday evening territory we’re meandering into.
For awhile I wonder what it would like if I were his ex- and he were to spot me. The carefully coiffed look would probably shatter in an instant. He’s really trying very hard to be on his best behaviour and impress the girl with him. And what if he were to bump into someone he didn’t treat that good, who knew him well…only too well…underneath that polish.
But he’s nervous. His hands aren’t quite shaking but there’s that high-strung air of tension surrounding his being and I can feel it sitting 30 feet away. Like when she takes a call on her cell, he turns his face away in an attempt to appear polite and respect her privacy. But he’s fidgety and the minute she hangs up, I can almost see him counting his breaths before he can turn around and resume conversation.
His smiles and laughter seem a little too eager. Not quite offensive but just like he’s relieved to be able to laugh off some of the tension. She, on the other hand, is natural. Smiling just enough, movements easy. Almost. Her gaze wanders ever so slightly in each direction. Sizing up. The surroundings, the people around, the arena. She’s playing and she’s just taking stock of the field.
That taken care of, my attention returns to him. It’s not that she’s uninteresting, she’s just ‘figured out’. Besides his nervousness draws me again. And I wonder what makes him so nervous. He obviously wants her to like him. Why?
Is it because he likes her as much? What does he want from her? Reciprocation of affection? A night or a weekend in bed? Respect? A month or so as trophy girlfriend? Awe and devotion?
My chicken satay is here and my glass needs a refill. I set to devouring my solitary, perfect lunch and put aside the messy questions of people for awhile. When I look up again, their orders have arrived and they’re waiting for the waiter to finish serving. Then they wish each other Bon Appetit and start eating. I walk out, content with a good meal and some foodside real-time entertainment.