On a warm Tuesday in July, it happened that two individuals, a man and a woman, sat in rather close proximity to one another on a bench in the entrance of a restaurant. They had never met – in fact, they had not even looked at each other.
Complete strangers, yes, but on this day they shared both a craving for sushi and, as I said, a small space in the restaurant’s entrance. They’d arrived at the same time, appeared similar in age, and both were unaccompanied.
Under such conditions, anyone who saw the pair might’ve thought they were a couple and I’ll be damned if a nearby waitress didn’t happen to think just that.
“Table for two?”
The man and the woman looked at each other, both somewhat surprised at the suggestion. The man considered his options. He should probably set things straight, but on the other hand, why not take a leap and invest in the possibility of having some company for dinner? The idea grew in his mind until he’d decided to ask her.
Yet, tragically, in summoning both the courage to ask and the Japanese words comprising his query, the man took just a moment too long and the woman spoke first.
“No, no, we’re not together. I’m waiting for some others.”
How simple a response; how blunt; and how surprisingly devastating for the man, who’d somehow formed quite an expectation in his mind of the merry meal they might’ve soon shared. Truly, on the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who at the dawn of victory lay down to rest, and in resting died.*
He ate alone and walked along the canal back to the small, plain room in the small, plain business hotel he’d booked for the night.
*Hesitation quote to Adlai E. Stevenson