“Good evening,” the maitre d’ says, looking discretely over my shoulder and then questioningly at me, eyebrow raised.
I let the pause lengthen awkwardly, secretly enjoying his discomfiture.
Finally he concedes and asks, “Is it just yourself tonight?”
“Yes, for one,” I confirm, smiling in this small victory.
“Would you like to sit in the bar?” he asks, and I glance over at the group of cheerful but inebriated hockey fans keeping company with the bartender.
“No, in the dining room please,” and I wait expectantly.
And my expectations are met. I’m led to the back of the restaurant, to an out of the way table, where my single aloneness can be hidden from other diners, as if it might be contagious. The maitre d’ gestures theatrically at the table and then, with some ceremony, he whisks away three of the four place settings, an awkward move, equally uncomfortable for both of us, and I’m left to wait for my server.
My server arrives. “Can I get you a drink while you’re waiting?” he asks.
“Waiting?” I ask, confused, but not really. I know what is coming.
“For your guest,” the server waves at the opposite side of the table and belated notices the missing place setting.
I look around for the wine list, but of course there isn’t one. I can only imagine that wine is only for sharing, and not to be savoured guiltily while dining alone. “Perhaps a glass of red?” I brazen. “What do you recommend?”
And then the professional mask descends and he enumerates my choices, finishing off with his personal favourite, the Shiraz.
My wine arrives, along with a basket of bread that could feed me for a week, maybe more, and I murmur “Thank you” as I peruse the menu, carefully avoiding the shared appetizer selections.