Sitting at my table, the other table was occupied by a young couple, early to mid-twenties. The silence was terrible. It leaked from their table and floated over to mine, managing to mask out the background music.
At first I thought it might just be the world's worst first date, as she twirled the stem of the wine glass in her fingers, and he stared at the wall. Even I was waiting for someone to speak, I can only imagine how they were feeling. Eventually someone did speak. The girl went from silent to machine gun - words like bullets rapidly crossed the table. Each one a grievance, an annoyance, something about him that she hates. The crumbs he leaves when he makes a sandwich, the time he spent at the pub when he had a day off. The man just sat there and took them, absorbed their impact waiting for the tirade to end. It didn't end though...more and more projectiles as every single one of his failures was thrown in his face, every way that he is inadequate and undesirable. Under the table, unseen by him, her foot tapped like a metronome...counting each failure as it hit its mark.
As suddenly as the salvo began, it ended and the smoke lay heavy. His hand lay on the table...not just on the table, but across it...nonchalantly (but clearly) in enemy territory. Her hands ignored it, preferring to stay crossed and stuffed under her armpits. Foot weaving under the table, winding up for another assault.
The waiter came with their food and the man finally spoke. He was cheery and upbeat, thanking the waiter for the food, but really thanking him for the rescue. She wouldn't dare assault him in public. She would surely play the happy couple for the waiter, and play she did. Now was his moment, now is where he can live again. Pretending his relationship is good. Pretending he is happy. He puts some chilli in his mouth, smiles and informs the girl; "Just the way I like it".