At first blush, the man sitting at the table looks to be in his early thirties, young enough that he could still be confused for a non-traditional college student, or maybe someone working through his PhD. He seems nervous and distracted, fussing with his napkin, rearranging the silverware at his place setting, and then the place setting across from him.
At his left hand is a small box wrapped in glossy black paper, held closed by a brilliantly iridescent bow. He touches the box, covers it with a napkin, hides it behind the water glass, the candle, in his suitjacket pocket, and finally he simply reaches over and sets it oh-so-carefully onto the bread plate at the setting across from him. Inside it is a beautiful ring; it looks heavy and cold, bejeweled and dazzling. I know this, because he took it out of the box and put it back in, took it out, and put it back in, took it out, and put it back in, at least six times, carefully re-tying the bow at the end.
He looks at the door, and checks his watch repeatedly, and in the hour that I have been here, he has gone from desperately nervous to wrenchingly crushed. It is somewhere around the forty-five minute mark that the waiter gingerly offers to open a bottle of house red, and he agrees, holding his glass like a three year old with a sippy cup, looking up through thick lashes that can not hide the impossible hope of those bright green eyes.
I watch him neaten his suit, straighten his tie, clear his throat, smooth his hair, do everything he could think of to make himself as shining and happily expectant as possible.
How like a hopeful dog he looks, eyebrows lifting, nose in the air as though to scent the absent Master who must be coming soon, of course He will be coming soon, how could He not be coming soon–is that Him?
Is that Him, now?
Is that Him, yet?
When I am finished with my own meal, I excuse myself from my company, and I move to stand beside the empty chair opposite him. He looks instantly guarded, almost defensive, but my smile brings out an answering grin, and by the time he has finished his glass of wine, his cheeks are pink with both alcohol and laughter, and he has agreed to go for a walk with me. The box is put back into his suitjacket pocket, and as we leave the restaurant, his hand slips into mine.
Of all of my lovers, I imagine I will regret his tomorrow morning the most, but it can’t be helped — I’m in too deep to let a pair of puppy eyes get in the way of my plans.