The restaurant existed in a void.
In this void, time seemed to move differently. There was an air of relaxed professionalism that mixed with the soft jazz, to create a soothing atmosphere. Nothing was early nor was it late. Food flowed out of the kitchen, at a steady rate, perfectly timed so that they wouldn’t interrupt conversations or appetites.
Even the staff, dressed in their iconic white shirts, black pants, dark blue aprons, moved with an efficiency that created a sensation of service gliding between tables. They were unfailingly polite, friendly and alert.
This was the perfect restaurant.
A biosphere in which everything suited each other perfectly. The modern architecture formed waves that swept over the heads of the patrons, wooden blocks that hid scores of soft warm lights. These bulbs generated intimacy and better photography, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the food.
A fusion of Japanese and Australian, the food was perfectly priced, tastefully balanced and wonderfully substantial. The three course meal, left you with a feeling of contentment, but not fullness, satisfying your body at the perfect 80% mark.
Nothing marred this restaurant. Everything was chosen for maximum attractive appeal and sensory pleasure. From the leather of the chair, to the gentle nu-jazz, nothing was left to chance.
Within this perfect culinary void, there was another one though and this was marred by the imperfections that could only be created by the perfect.
In the far corner of the restaurant, there was a small booth. Semi-circular, with tall walls and red lined leather, the stall held hostage a beautiful couple.
The woman was stunning in all aspects. She was elegance personified. Long, dark hair ran down flawless alabaster skin. Red lipstick and dark enigmatic blue eyes challenged and seduced the world. Arched eyebrows and a beautifully defined nose and cheekbone combination stared out and arrested you. Her slender, athletic body was encased in a tight obsidian dress that ended mid-thigh and flaunted her long legs, dark heels and long back.
She was untouchable.
The man was equally handsome. Wavy salt and peppered hair was swept backwards, to reveal a high brow and a tanned face, that spoke of European ancestry. He was sophisticated, intelligent and consummately considerate. The man’s brown eyes scanned right through you, assessing you with judgement before pairing the appraisal with an easy smile and a firm handshake. A tailored dark grey suit armoured the lean musculature and added depth to his hips and shoulders.
He was unflappable.
Within this bubble, that existed within a void, there was the perfect conflict. A fight, a confession and a truth was about to be revealed. But there was none of the heightened emotional tension.
The man held up a glass of whiskey and sipped from it carefully. “So let me get this straight. You want a divorce.”
The woman nodded seriously. She speared a slice of sashimi with her chopsticks and chewed appreciatively.
Silence descended on the pair as time ticked away, their thoughts filling the empty plates as they continued to eat.
The man sighed. “Have I done anything wrong?”
The woman shook her head and reached out across the table. Their hands touched, gentle and almost lovingly. “No, it’s not you. It’s the circumstances I find myself in.”
“What’s that?” asked the man, as he cleared the final pieces of sashimi from the share plate of their main meal.
“You know very well what they are.” said the woman flippantly. She sat back with her wine glass, as a waiter swiftly entered into frame and cleared their tables to prepare for their mains.
Seeing the dissatisfied look on the man’s face, the woman sighed and leaned in. “I’ll be honest with you. This has just become too familiar to me. I don’t think I’m cut out for this.”
The man looked at her seriously, before sitting back and letting a reflective expression play across his tanned features. “So the only sin I’ve committed is familiarity?”
The woman nods almost clinically. She starts to play with her wine glass, watching how the dark scarlet liquid swirl around. “Can I tell you a dream and theory I’ve been having recently?”:
“Sure.” said the man, as he settled back in his chair, his fingers splayed against each other.
“I’ve been having these dreams lately, where I’m walking along a beach at night. I don’t really know where I’m going, but it feels like I am going in a direction that is important. The beach lasts forever, there’s no end to it. Just sand, water and wind for as long as I can see, feel and hear.”
The woman takes a quick breath and a sip from her wine before continuing.
“Along the way, I keep seeing these phantoms appear to the left and right of me. They seem familiar, but every time I get close to one of them, the memory seem to fade. I can’t remember exactly who they are or why they’re important to me. All I get is that feeling, over and over and over … of knowing who they are, but never quite knowing.”
The woman stops as she reminisces about her dream. The man leans forwards onto the table and places a hand under his chin. “Do you ever reach anywhere in your dream?” he asks.
“No. I just keep walking on and on, all alone.” said the woman wistfully. “Sometimes it’s frightening, sometimes it’s freeing. But I always wake up with my legs feeling very tired.”
The man frowns in confusion. “Like you actually walked the distance you covered in your dream?”
The woman nods seriously. “Yes. Exactly.”
The man looks off to the side, deep in thought. The view from the restaurant is spectacular, with shimmering lights that reflect the neon signs of an active nightlife. A pulsing blue light etches itself across the man’s angular features, and the woman feels a sense of regret about the whole discussion.
“You said, you had a theory about it?” he asks, genuinely curious.
“Not a professional one.” warned the woman with a small shake of her elegant head. “But it’s the best I can come up with.”
The man raises an eyebrow in inquiry.
“I see the dream as a warning about my true nature. I’ve reached a stage in my life, where the world is my pearl. But I’m not sure what I really want out of life. But I’m wanting more.”
“I get that.” said the man seriously. “So you believe that those phantoms in your dreams are … opportunities you’re missing?”
“Yes, exactly.” replied the woman earnestly. “Haven’t you ever felt like you’re missing out on life and richer experiences when you’re with me?”
“You know me. My work gives me all the unpredictability I need in life.” the man wryly countered.
The woman smiled and pouted teasingly at him. Taking a sip from her glass, she sighed. “You didn’t answer the question.”
“Sometimes.” came the curt response.
“Did those … sometimes … ever lead anywhere?”
The man cocked his head quizzically at the implications of the question. “No, never.” He paused. “You were always enough.”
The woman nodded appreciatively at the honesty. “Would it surprise you if I said once?”
“Was it emotional?” asked the man almost calmly.
“No. Because it never happened …” The woman’s voice trailed off and she shook her head sadly.
“But this is why I want us to separate. You genuinely assumed I cheated already. You want more, as do I.”
Looking down at his wedding ring, the man toyed with the silver band. Catching the gesture, the woman stared at him, transfixing his quiet confident brown eyes with her own self-assured sapphires.
“I know how long we’ve been together. We wouldn’t be having a discussion this civil if we weren’t. But right now I need more than what any of this can provide.”
The man nodded. He almost understood. Already, he could tell that his mind was excited for something new. But that was the enticing danger that always came with “new.”
The man took a sip of his whiskey. “Familiarity, huh?”
“It’s been 9 years.”
“So to close off a decade, we should celebrate with something new?”
“Arguably” she said without any irony “It’s the best way to toast a decade. With a funeral for what once was.”
The man smiled at the joke. “OK. You’ve convinced me. I’m willing to stop sleeping next to familiar and see what is out there.”
The woman smiled in return and raised her glass. “To us, and to us.”
The two glasses clinked together in harmony. The couple, now amicable strangers, sat back and drank to themselves instead of each other for the first time in a decade.
The bubble that existed within the void of the restaurant was now burst. It’s tension slipping away before the wake of harmonious reconciliation.
Strangely, the dynamic between the man and the woman became flirtatious. As if they were truly seeing each other anew again. They could ask questions freely now, unrestrained from the chains of long acquaintanceship.
“How many opportunities did you receive?” quizzed the man.
“Over the course of this year alone?” the woman shook her head exasperatedly. “At least a dozen. It’s the new job. There are just far too many men there. But what about yourself? Don’t tell me the secretary has.”
“No. I think I terrify her” laughed the man. “But a lot of the board members have suggested a lot of dinner dates.”
“Any you wish to take that offer up on?”
The man shook his head slyly. “Are you kidding? I only just became a bachelor again.”
The woman smiled at the joke and reached out with her hand, grasping his with a firm, grateful grip.
“Thank you. I just want to let you know that …”
The man shook his head. “You don’t have to say anything.” he interrupted sincerely. “I get it.”
The woman nodded solemnly and they both looked at their hands, entwined with their wedding bands. Without a further word, they both took off their rings and put them away in their pockets.
The man leaned in and smiled mischievously “So what’s our story moving forward?”
The woman shrugged “Just be honest. We got bored.”
“No one is going to believe that.”
“They will, when we keep saying it’s true.” replied the woman wistfully.
A thoughtful silence overcame the both of them and they took a sip from their drinks. They carried on with their flirtatious exchange until finally the man motioned for the bill. In an amicable display of friendship, they split the bill in half.
Walking outside, the pair of them stood at the door, ready to go their separate ways, but wishing to end a long memory the right way.
It was a beautiful night. The moon shone brightly down on the winter streets of the city, snow was lightly powdering the pavement and the chill was a comforting one. Cars slowly rolled by, their lights reflecting off the couple’s eyes.
Somehow, they had escaped the void that had struck down so many others like them. Here in the outside world, they were now faced with the harsher lens of reality.
It was time to let it go.
The man took one last look at the woman and tenderly placed his hand under her strong chin.
Leaning in, he kissed her on the cheek and she closed her eyes momentarily, lost in the moment and the whirlwind of emotions.
“Be seeing you. Don’t forget to write.” said the man, as he walked away, hunched into his coat and searching for a hotel. He waved a final time, with an ironic, wry smile.
The woman smiled fondly at the man as she called back.
“You’ll get the papers soon.”