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9:57 p.m.

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*A man walks into a restaurant alone. It is late on a Thursday night. The man is young -early twenties. There are three waiters attending the left wing of the restaurant: one male, two females. All three are not far from his own age.

W: How many will it be?

-Just me, for the time being.

W: Follow me, Sir.

*They amble slowly through some empty isles, weaving through white upholstered seats to the left wing of the restaurant. A few people are already there: one man sips his coffee as he stares lovingly at his wife who gaily savours a slice of chocolate cake. Another family of four converses at the table to their right. Farther in the back, two women are leafing through their garden salads and laughing at some apparent joke; some mild amusement. An elderly woman, alone by the window places her linen napkin upon her right leg and remains for an extended moment looking down at her hands which seemingly tremble. She is not sad. Her face reveals a particular concern.

W: Will this do sir?

-Of course! I certainly won't trouble you.

W: Your waiter will be with you in just a moment.

-Thank you.

*He sits, adjusts his chair, unfolds his napkin, and watches as the silverware spills out upon the mantle-top: a spoon, two forks, and a knife. He gently places each to his right: the spoon to the left of the others; the forks in the center. He aligns the bottom ends; refolds the napkin neatly in two and places it accross his lap from left to right; he flattens it upon his leg. He moves the glass of water on the table two inches closer to his torso. He looks momentarily at how the light spakles upon the rim on the right side of the glass. He blinks slowly, then places his fingers at the stem of the cup. He lifts it off the table with three fingers; his arm stationary at a 45 degree angle, as if he were about to make an offering; make a toast. Through the diaphonous liquid he can see the empty seat accross from him; distorted. He takes a deep breath; brings the cup up to his lips and lingers upon the sharp contrast in temperature between his skin and the ice striking the glass. The waiter arrives. He puts his cup down without looking up; pauses; lifts it again to drink; then looks at the waiter.

W: Welcome back, Sir. I must say, you are becoming one of my favorite regulars.

-How is that?

W: I mean, you're always so punctual; always here three minutes before ten. It is such an awkward time, I don't know how you do it.

*He nods contentedly.

W: What would you like to drink today?

-Anything strong, as long as it doesn't have any rum. I can't stand it.

W: I've got just the thing. Now, would you like a few minutes, or have you already in mind what you'd like to order?

-Its no use. What I want isn't in your menu.

W: What is it? Perhaps I could arrange something.

-How long will it be?

W: It depends...

*He looks intently at the waiter.

-On what?

W: On what you'd like to have.

-Oh, right... my meal.

W: So what'll it be?

-To be honest, I'm not very hungry.

W: We have several small dishes if you'd like.

-You're too kind.

*The waiter smiles.

-Must you be?

W: Well, I'd like to think a man's only true obligation is to himself.

-Yes, but what about love?

W: Love?

-Yes, do you believe in it?

W: Why wouldn't I?

-Some people don't.

W: Some people don't know what it means.

-Exactly. And do you suppose you know what it is?

W: It is where passion mingles with necessity.

-Why necessity?

W: Because no one can bear to go through life alone. Still, we are afraid of the fact that we need each other.

-We do.

W: Alright, so how about a soup or salad?

-Could I have both?

W: I suppose.

-But not always, right?

W: What?

-In life, you can't have everything.

W: No, you can't.

-Not even if you want it bad enough?

W: I guess it depends on what you're willing to do to get it.


W: Never. Determination...

*He smiles.

W: Which would you like to have first?

-Isn't it customary to always have the salad first?

W: Its your choice. We're in a free country.

-Are we?

W: I just mean it might be rather scandalous in a place like Paris or Thailand.

-Alright, I'll have my soup. Make it French Onion, since you brought up the French.

*Waiter chuckles.

W: Of course. I'll be back in no time.

-There's no rush.

*The waiter walks off.

*He looks at the woman sitting alone at the window. Her hand has stopped trembling and she is enjoying a delectable dish of seafood pasta. He can still hear the women laughing on and off a few tables behind him. The man and his wife are still drinking coffee. She has finished her cake. The husband calls one of the waitresses over for his bill.

*He turns away from them; sighs; reaches into his jacket to find his pocket watch. He takes it out, but doesn't open it. He cups it in his palm and examines the metal -polishes it against his sleeve. He clicks it open just a crack.


*He closes it again without looking. He pushes it back into his jacket with his right hand -hesitantly.

*The waiter arrives with the soup.

W: Here you go.

-Thank you.

W: No problem.

*He trembles as he lifts his spoon.

-Could you tell me the time?

*He holds his breath.

W: Its about 10:30

-And how long will it be?

*Looks solemnly at the waiter.

W: Until what?

*He exhales; looks away.

-Forget it...

W: Are you alright?

-You're too kind.

W: You tip me well.

-Its not enough.

W: Well, I like being good to my customers.


W: Ok, I'll be back in a little while with your salad.

-Thank you.

*Waiter walks off.

*He places his spoon upon the soup; moves it gently over the surface, admiring the steam rising off the edge of the small bowl. He takes a few spoonfulls slowly (no more than three). He puts the spoon down again. He reaches into his pocket to get a pen. He removes its top with two fingers, and then pauses. He spends a few moments glancing at the napkin folded on his lap. -It is too white-. He pulls it off his lap and places it on the table. He writes a word on it with his pen as his waiter walks by.

W: What are you doing?

*Puts the pen away.

-I had to...

*Looks morosely at the waiter.

-The napkin was too white.

*The waiter turns the napkin with his right hand to see the word.


W: Why?

-Its what I feel whenever I come here. It is the only word that can describe it.

W: I understand. Don't worry about it. I'm sure no one will notice after it gets washed.

-Thank you.

W: (worriedly) You haven't eaten anything.

-Yes I have.

*Waiter gives him a suspicious look.

W: Its going to get cold.

-Can I have my bill?

W: You haven't even had your salad!

-I'm not hungry.

W: You can't leave here on an empty stomach.


*Waiter goes for the bill.

*He finishes his soup and pays. His tip is even greater than the bill itself.

W: Thank you very much!

-Nonsense. You deserve it.

W: Same time tomorrow?

- (with a smile) Perhaps...

W: By the way... what do you think love is?

*He smiles again.

-Unmatched, unmitigated longing... and Devotion.

*He turns away and walks out of the restaurant without stopping; never looking back.

*The waiter looks at the tip he just recieved. He grins.

W: Punctuality...

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