I’m going to do it. Derek told himself. What’s the big deal? People do it all the time. It’s just three little words, and they’re even easy to say. He looked at the woman standing before him. A beautiful woman, but what’s the worst that could happen? “Table for one,” he said.
“Right this way,” she smiled as she showed him to his table in the corner of the restaurant, “Your server will be right with you.” The hostess took the second place setting from across the table.
Derek picked up the menu and browsed. He kept looking it over, even after he’d decided what he wanted, just to occupy himself. His server approached, “How are you this evening, sir?”
“Fantastic! Really great! How are you?” Derek said. She smiled, slightly taken aback by his enthusiasm for pleasantries. Reign it in, Derek, you’re overcompensating. You’re not the first person she’s ever seen eat alone. He ordered the halibut and some pinot noir.
Derek wasn’t sure what to do now. He sipped his wine and tried to look casual. He looked around the restaurant at the usual first dates and anniversaries and business dinners happening around him. He tried not to linger anywhere for too long. He was the only person dining alone.
Why shouldn’t a single man enjoy a nice meal? It’s not like a person can digest better in a group. He had just as much right to be here as any of them.
He should have brought a book; at least then he’d have something to do while he waited for his food to arrive. But would that be gauche? No, he made the right choice. No one was watching. He should just enjoy the ambiance.
He waited and wished he had a table by the window. Shouldn’t the hostess have known that a person dining alone would benefit more from the scenery than the couple gazing into each others eyes as if they’re expecting the meaning of life to pop out of their irises like a Magic Eye drawing?
Four eternities later, his server came over with his meal and refilled his water glass. “Is there anything else I can get you, sir?” she asked.
“No, thank you,” Derek replied, “This looks fabulous.” And it did. And it was. It was so flaky and tender he thought it was melting right in with his tongue. The creamy risotto made each bite more delicious. He nearly wept, it was so good.
He finished the last bite and closed his eyes to savor the flavors that still danced around on his tongue. “Would you care for dessert?” his server was asking him. He opened his eyes.
Dessert sounded heavenly, but being spoken to reignited his self-consciousness. He saw the woman at the neighboring table feed a bite of creme brulee to her date. It was an indulgence he wasn’t quite ready for, so he asked for the check and promised himself he’d stop for ice cream on the way home.