A Plate of Spaghetti

“No man is lonely while eating spaghetti.” – Robert Morley

The waiter raised his eyebrows, and the pen stilled over his order pad while he waited for an answer.

“No, there won’t be anyone joining me after all,” the man in the candy striped bow tie sighed. “It seems she had to stay late at work.”

“Very good, sir. What can I get for you? Our chef is featuring a very special clam sauce linguine this evening.” Again the eyebrows lifted to accent the question awaiting a response, relaxing for a moment until they furrowed in concentration to write:

“Spaghetti. I’ll just have the spaghetti with meat sauce.”

The pen lifted from the page and dropped to the waiter’s side. No need to write down such a simple request. “Very well, sir. I’ll be back shortly with your salad.” As the waiter hurried off to the kitchen, the bow tie sagged closer to the table. The man slouched deep into the chair and allowed himself one long and woeful exhalation. Deflating his lungs removed most of the energy from his spine, and his nose was seconds away from touching the napkin folded in front of him. He noticed how sharp the pressed folds appeared at such close range and how the weave of the linen was slubby upon careful examination. She would have loved everything about this place. These are the fanciest napkins I’ve ever seen. The thought of his missing date forced the last bit of air out of his body, and he paused before inhaling. For a moment he pondered never breathing again, but the small panic caused by lack of oxygen reminded him that it was just a date, after all, and he must breathe no matter how morose the situation. His shoulders straightened a tiny bit, and his bow tie peeked above the edge of the table for the first time since he ordered.

He realized for the first time that the maître de was staring in concern, so he offered a thin smile to the friendly round face and looked around the room, mapping all of the colors and shadows, taking in all of the bustling action around him. He had been so preoccupied waiting for his date that he had missed the crystal festooned chandeliers and the brilliant colors of the paintings. Light twinkled off the crystal wine glasses, and the fancy napkins formed swans settling on each empty table. Most of the swans had been put to use, as tables full of families, couples, and business deals came alive with the energy of words and laughter shared.

The bow tie returned to its rightful place as the man breathed in the joy surrounding him. There would be other dates. Someday. Tonight it was enough to enjoy the warmth of spaghetti and remember that his own family and friends would soften the blow of this dinner alone. He didn’t feel lonely as he watched the waiter darting between tables with the ease of a dancer, taking a final bow to set the plate of steaming spaghetti on the table. He felt the energy surging around the room enter his lungs as he inhaled the smell of garlic and meat and tomato sauce, and all felt right in the world for at least that one breath.

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