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Table for Two

by Kirsten Burgess

He sits by himself at a table for two. The uniformed waiter returns to
his side and asks, "Would you like to go ahead and order, sir?" The
man has, after all, been waiting since seven o'clock--almost half an
hour. "No, thank you," the man smiles. "I'll wait for her a while longer.
How about some more coffee?" "Certainly, sir." The man sits, his clear
blue eyes gazing straight through the flowered centerpiece. He fingers
his napkin, allowing the sounds of light chatter, tinkling silverware,
and mellow music to fill his mind. He is dressed in asport coat and
tie. His dark brown hair is neatly combed, but one stray lock insists
on dropping to his forehead. The scent of his cologne adds to his
clean-cut image. He is dressed up enough to make a companion feel
important, respected, loved. Yet he is not so formal as to make one
uncomfortable. It seems that he has taken every precaution to make
others feel at ease with him. Still, he sits alone. The waiter
returns to fill the man's coffee cup. "Is there anything else I can
get for you, sir?" "No, thank you." The waiter remains standing at
the table. Something tugs at his curiosity. "I don't mean to pry,
but..." His voice trails off. This line of conversation could jeopardize
his tip. "Go ahead," the man encourages. He is strong, yet sensitive,
inviting conversation. "Why do you bother waiting for her?" the waiter
finally blurts out. This man has been at the restaurant other evenings
, always patiently alone. Says the man quietly, "Because she needs me.
" "Are you sure?" "Yes." "Well, sir, no offense, but assuming that she
needs you, she sure isn't acting much like it. She's stood you up
three times just this week." The man winces, and looks down at the
table. "Yes, I know." "Then why do you still come here and wait?"
"Cassie said that she would be here." "She's said that before,"
the waiter protests. "I wouldn't put up with it. Why do you?" Now
the man looks up, smiles at the waiter, and says simply, "Because I
love her." The waiter walks away, wondering how one could love a girl
who stands him up three times a week. The man must be crazy, he decides.
Across the room, he turns to look at the man again. The man slowly pours
cream into his coffee. He twirls his spoon between his fingers a few times
before stirring sweetener into his cup. After staring for a moment into
the liquid, the man brings the cup to his mouth and sips, silently watching
those around him. He doesn't look crazy, the waiter admits. Maybe the girl
has qualities that I don't know about. Or maybe the man's love is stronger
than most. The waiter shakes himself out of his musings to take an order
from a party of five. The man watches the waiter, and wonders if he's ever
been stood up. The man has, many times. But he still can't get used to it.
Each time, it hurts. He's looked forward to this evening all day. He has many
things, exciting things, to tell Cassie. But, more importantly, he wants
to hear Cassie's voice. He wants her to tell him all about her day, her
triumphs, her defeats....anything, really. He has tried so many time to
show Cassie how much he loves her. He'd just like to know that she cares
for him, too. He sips sporadically at the coffee, and loses himself in
thought, knowing that Cassie is late, but still hoping that she will arrive.
The clock says nine-thirty when the waiter returns to the man's table. "Is
there anything I can get for you?" The still empty chair stabs at the man.
"No, I think that will be all for the night. May I have the check please?"
"Yes, sir." When the waiter leaves, the man picks up the check. He pulls
out his wallet and signs. he has enough money to have given Cassie a feast.
But he takes out only enough to pay for his five cups of coffee and the tip.
Why do you do this, Cassie?" His mind cries as he gets up from the table.
"Good-bye," the waiter says, as the man walks towards the door. "Good night.
Thank you for your service." You're welcome, sir," says the waiter softly, for
he sees the hurt in the man's eyes that his smile doesn't hide. The man passes
a laughing young couple on his way out and his eyes glisten as he thinks of
the good time he and Cassie could have had. He stops at the front and makes
reservations for tomorrow. Maybe Cassie will be able to make it, he thinks.
"Seven o'clock tomorrow for party of two?" the hostess confirms. "That's right,"
the man replies. "Do you think she'll come?" asks the hostess. She doesn't mean
to be rude, but she has watched the man many times alone at his table for two.
"Someday, yes. And I will be waiting for her." The man buttons his overcoat and
walks out of the restaurant, alone. His shoulders are hunched, but through the
windows the hostess can only guess whether they are hunched against the wind or
against the man's hurt. As the man turns toward home, Cassie turns into bed.
She is tired after an evening out with friends. As she reaches toward her night
stand to set the alarm, she sees the note that she scribbled to herself last
night. "7:00," it says. "Spend some time in prayer." Darn, she thinks.
She forgot again. She feels a twinge of guilt, but quickly pushes it aside.
She needed that time with her friends. And now she needs her sleep.
She can pray tomorrow night. Jesus will forgive her. And she's sure
he doesn't mind.