By:Carina Lim

Frankie walked into the restaurant, and a young waitress attended to him immediately. The dinner was a birthday treat from Rayan. He insisted Rayan not to bother himself as he was busy with his work and a baby on the way. Frankie didn’t mind if Rayan missed it because it was just a birthday. After thinking long and hard, Rayan stuck to his guns and visited Frankie. He booked into the hotel and made a reservation for a buffet dinner. That was how Frankie ended up at the hotel’s restaurant and walking on carpeted floor when he was shown to the table Rayan reserved.

Rayan was already there. He had his eyes on his mobile phone while his thumbs were moving up and down on the screen. Frankie felt guilty because Rayan hardly had time for himself, but he made the effort to still, meet up with him. They were best friends since primary school, and they valued their friendship. So, every year they will try to visit one another.

“Rayan,” Frankie called out when he walked towards him. Rayan looked up from his phone and when saw that it was Frankie, he let out a smile.

“Happy birthday, old man,” Rayan teased instantly when Frankie took the seat opposite of him.

“Thank you for treating me to this fancy place,” Frankie took a glance at his surroundings. “I can’t say I’ve been here. How did you find out about this place?”

“Sarah’s family used to come here a lot. They loved buffets,” Rayan referred to his wife. “Let’s take some food, shall we?

Both men enjoyed their dinner as there were varieties of international foods. They talked about their work, family, and Rayan explained how nervous he was at welcoming his first born. They reminisced about their school days and their friends; some were still friends, others became strangers and two passed away from being ill. They drank in their memories and had a moment of silence.

“Is it me or is it odd for a person to come here alone?” Rayan asked Frankie when he spotted an older man by himself. Frankie turned around to see a man in his 70s by the window, adjusting his glasses before taking a bite of his cut up cheese.

“Maybe he is just really hungry,” Frankie assumed.

“Or he has nobody to celebrate his birthday with,” Rayan argued, implying to Frankie’s single lifestyle. “Aren’t you glad that I am here?”

“I am glad but even if you didn’t make it, I am sure that I’ll do something interesting on my special day,” Frankie reasoned, observing an older woman in a knee length flowery dress, walking to the man by the window. Frankie assumed they belonged together.

“Sure you will. Playing video games is not doing something special, Frankie. So, is there any special person in your life?” Rayan asked.

“If you are talking about women, then no. Finding the right woman isn’t as easy as when you were dating Sarah. You should count your blessing that Sarah is a good woman and a good wife.”

“And a good mother, I’m sure,” Rayan added. “She’s the best.”

“See, what I mean?” Frankie asked.

“All I’m saying is don’t take too long or else you might end up living a lonely life or coming to a hotel’s buffet like the man over there,” Rayan explained.

“Being alone is better than being unhappy,” Frankie shot back. “By the way, the man there isn’t alone. I saw a woman walking towards him with a plateful of food.”

“Are you sure?” Rayan studied the man. “I haven’t seen anyone with him. Maybe she is from another table.”

Frankie turned around to see the aging couple smiling at each other. They looked as if they were having a deep conversation. At one point, the man fed his wife a small piece of cake, but she declined it by shaking her head. He ate that cake instead, and they continued their conversation. 

“Maybe you are too tired or something is wrong with your eyes,” Frankie turned to look at Rayan. “The wife is sitting opposite of him, can’t you see her?”

“No. He is all alone,” Rayan shook his head and called out a waiter nearby. He asked, “Do you see the man there by the window?”

“Yes,” the waiter replied. “He isn’t bothering you is he?”

“Oh no. I just want to ask if he is alone or is there a woman with him?”

The waiter thought it was an odd question but replied anyway, “He’s alone. He comes here every week for the past few years.”

Listening to that, Frankie turned to see them still talking and smiling at each other. “I’ll be back.”

Frankie walked up to the man by the window and introduced himself. Frankie told him that he wasn’t alone. That was when he shared with Frankie that he missed his late wife, who passed away four years ago.

“She’s here with you,” Frankie informed him.

“I know,” he nodded, a smile formed on his aging face.

Carina Lim bears different messages through her fiction. These messages could be useful in life. She can be contacted at mermaidgal03@yahoo.com

New Sarawak Tribune e-Paper


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