“Not here son, not one step closer” the table hissed.
Outwardly, it was ferocious. Inwardly, it was petrified.
The man paused in mid-step. He hesitated. He stared at the table. The table stared in return. He gave in and prodded on.
“Not here! Please, I am sick.” the opposite table pleaded when the man neared. But the table was not sick; it was just deploying a survival tactic, and a successful one at that.
The man continued his prowl.
“Sir, this way please.” The waitress ushered him towards an empty table next to the cashier.
The man rested his elbows on the table top. A loud groan issued from below.
Those eyes, those menacing judgmental eyes, where are they? The man looked around. Afraid to be seen. Afraid to be seen alone. These diners, they somehow seem familiar. Have they met before?
The man recalled reading from a book that everyone is just a few degrees of separation from each other. If everyone is a friend of somebody else, then everyone knows everyone else. Everyone knows me, do they not?
The ill-timed question grew a lump in his throat. He can’t back out now. It is too late.
The man placed his order. Two items as usual: Teriyaki chicken chop and black coffee.
“He won’t sit long” the table comforted itself. It was anxious. The surrounding tables chimed in agreement.
“I am already here, so shut up.” He pounded the table. It was soft enough to be painless, but loud enough to be audible. Neighbouring diners looked at him, and then at one another. Eyes met eyes, whispers met whispers. The food came and the man ate quietly. A single pinprick of silence amidst the storm of deafening judgment.
The plate was finally cleared. The coffee cup remained. The man held it responsible for the stains left behind on the table top. The man analysed the stains, his brain exhausting itself in the arduous attempt to trace the coffee cup’s journey; from where it was first placed upon the table to its present resting position.
“Wrong. Please try again,” the table replied. It saw no reason to add emotion to its voice.
This time, the man pounded the table three times with the fury of a threatened gorilla. The whispers resumed. This time too, they were louder. Those lips began to dance in delight. Sounds spewed forth from the way they shaped themselves. Sounds of mindless judgment, derision, and ignorance. They layered upon one another, stacking to dizzying heights above the diners. They eddied among the ceiling fans with a seasoned flair, intensifying with arrogance and celebrating their fleeting existence. Satisfied, they swooped downward, feeding uninvited into the eardrums of the man.
“It doesn’t matter, does it” the coffee cup surrendered a sigh.
“It matters! Ugly cup!” Saliva spurted from the man’s mouth. He backhanded his mouth and wiped away the spittle in a half-hearted manner. The cup shuddered in fear. The table kept silent. They saw no reason to agitate him further.
Some diners evacuated their seats at once. Those eyes on him. Those eyes on him. They simply do not understand. They simply do not understand.
“I am sorry, but you are too heavy” the chair groaned. Trembling, it could barely withstand the weight.
“It’s because you are weak” he replied, and bounced agitatedly. A sharp unmistakable crack issued from the chair. Surrounding chairs froze in terror.
“Sir, is everything alright?” the waitress seated herself on the opposite chair. The restaurant is closing soon. The diners have scattered.
“It depends.” He replied coldly.
“In the course of your meal, you have shifted the cup seven times in this sequence.” She held the coffee cup and repositioned it seven times in demonstration.
“Ah, seven times.” He muttered. A sudden warmth welled up within him. He felt light suddenly, light as a feather.
“Are you alright now?” She repeated, her concerned eyes locked tenderly into his. The tables waited with bated breath. Every second passed like a century.
“I am alright now” he said, struggling to remember the coffee cup’s journey in his head.
A deep collective sigh of old mahogany wood resonated throughout the restaurant.
“Right back corner, mid-center, front left corner.” He mumbled to himself as the waitress helped him out of the chair and walked him to the entrance. He gave one final scowl at the stains, his chair, and his table before disappearing into the night.
Turning back, the waitress surveyed the tables with clinical detachment for a few moments.
“It will be the same people tomorrow,” she announced, “and it will be your turn.”
At the far end of the restaurant, a table quivered uncontrollably.