One particular evening she decided to have dinner by herself at the restaurant. She’d never been there before and chances were she’d never be there again. When she entered she found the place perfectly spacious and only half-full with chattering patrons. She chose a table at the furthest corner, where the big glass windowpanes appropriated a piece of the sidewalk creating a secluded glass-encased nook just big enough to fit a table for two and an electric heater. The menu layout was a bit unusual but once she suffered through the enthusiastic explanation of the bouncing waiter, she was able to read it quite easily and order some scrumptious sounding dishes.
The waiter bounced back to the kitchen with her order and she thought she’d have some time to herself, but she received two more visits from busboys bearing her bread, olive oil and glass of red wine. Then she was left alone to relax and contemplate the view outside the window. The snow was falling steadily in vigorous flakes, which turned into light particles before they hit the ground. She could see more snow gathering to the bottom of the windowpane and she felt glad she was inside.
The warmth of the place permeated her bones and she felt herself unwind. The music was just high enough to drown the human voices around her, turning all sounds into an introvert tune harmonizing with her slow heartbeat.
It was at that precise moment that she caught herself longing for him, her breath a deep sigh and her head a slight droop. She felt the hurt that usually accompanied such moments, and the pain of separation and the anger at not being able to shake those feelings off despite the long time that had passed since she’d last heard from him.
Hmm, she thought. Nevertheless it would have been nice to dine with him on a night like this. It would have been good to see his face lit by the candle on the table and his eyes thoughtfully taking her in while she spoke. To be completely honest, she always thought he was just pretending to listen, but she had to admit he’d been a good pretender.
Then it hit her that there was no reason she could not have him as a dinner partner that night anyway. She had his memory. She could project it on the empty chair in front of her, a vivid and clear image pasted from other dinners at other times. His memory was hers to use as she saw fit, hers to select and mold according to her moods and states of mind. He’d always been a bit like that to her anyway, more of a memory and an illusion than a real person. Even when they were together, she’d live with his impression of feeling and memory of scent rather than with him.
So she invited him to dinner and he came, a lively but unobtrusive dinner partner, attentive and entertaining, as he’d never been in real life, swilling the full-bodied red wine with her and tasting her mouth afterwards. He’d taken her hand with that special way he had and lightly played with her fingers. He’d discussed a variety of enlightening issues with her, and whispered to her with that eager but hesitating way of his, like a young boy enthusiastic but unsure of himself. He’d commented on the way she held her tea, both of her hands cupping and nuzzling the warm liquid inside, while he spoke.
When desert came she asked for an extra spoon so that he could enjoy her crème brulee without feeling less of a man. Then she paid, free from the customary macho grab for the check, and sat back and smiled at him and at the snowy night.
At last she walked slowly out of the restaurant, smiling at the maitre d’ that opened the door for her, her dinner partner’s memory tucked once again safely behind the walls of hurt and anger. Ahh, what a night, she thought and breathed deeply again in anticipation of the deep slumber awaiting her at the hotel room.