I don't want to go to this restaurant. All restaurants make me nervous, and what is the sense of eating when your stomach is too nervy to digest its food? But this is a very classy place: dim lights; large, glass entry doors; dark, tasteful carpet; very quiet, with muted background music.
My palms are sweaty. I don't want to do this, but I have to - a wonderful woman is meeting me here and I want very much to make a good impression. So I steel myself to the task.
At the front door there is a book on a pedestal with a man in a tuxedo standing beside it. He is looking at me with a cold-fish smile. I have to sign the guestbook. Christ! What if I forget how to spell my name or where I live. Oh, don't be stupid! Just write anything.
He hands me his pen. I sign in - miraculously with my own name and address. I straighten with a sigh of relief as he reaches for the pen I'm still holding. But just then I realise I'm standing in the middle of the entrance doorway and a couple are walking towards me, about to leave. Putting my head down to avoid eye-contact I quickly step back out of the way and slam my heel down on the foot of the doorman who has been standing on the other side of the entrance against the open, glass door. He yelps and I straighten in horror belting the back of my head against his forehead. His head bounces back to hit the glass door with a resounding BONG! noise. I leap off his foot and back away from him into the interior of the restaurant as he starts to crumple to his knees. I twist the pen frantically in my hands as I back away and suddenly notice that the guy with the book is looking fearfully at me and at something behind me. I realise I must be about to collide with something again! I spin around, poised, just about to fall onto someone's table. Flapping my arms wildly, I narrowly avoid that fate and regain my balance, and quickly sidle away from there. Unfortunately the woman sitting at the table I'd almost fallen onto has left her bag on the floor beside her and my feet become entangled in the shoulder strap. In panic I try to step out of it but succeed only in overbalancing. The doorman I'd staggered into earlier has seen my plight and is stepping forward to try and catch me as I fall, but he must still be a bit dazed from that bang on the head because he misses my outstretched arms. My fingertips just manage to connect with his waist. This is not enough to stop me falling though, and as I fall to the floor I drag his pants with me.
Now, I hadn't seen the waiter carrying an enormous tray of food and somehow he hasn't seen me lying in his path and he trips over my body, hurling food, plates, and cutlery in all directions.
Amazingly, the straps no longer snare my feet so I scrabble away, feverishly repeating "Oh god! Sorry. Oh god! Sorry."
On the far side of the room I spot the gorgeous woman I'd come here to meet so I hurry across to her. I can't bear to look at anyone so I look down at my hands wringing and twisting the pen which, somehow is still in my hands. It has some kind of decorative knob on the top which has started to crack now around the edge. With some kind of perverse curiosity I push at it with my fingers as I stride between the tables. And it breaks completely open! What have I done!? I try to push it back together and break the decoration almost entirely off the pen. It is now barely attached so it flops about ridiculously.
I am now at my friend's table. She looks at me with great amusement, then puzzlement as I thrust the pen at her. I don't want to touch it! She takes it and looks like she is going to burst into laughter.
As I sit down, shaking, sweating, my teeth clenched, I see a waiter approaching. He stops at our table and I fancy he is about to ask either if I am alright or if I would kindly leave but he doesn't get that far because my friend presents him with the broken pen. He takes it and stares at it, nonplussed, as it chooses that moment to release its inky contents over his hand and onto the expensive carpet. This is too much for my friend who lets out a peal of laughter.
I get up and flee the place. I didn't feel hungry anyway.
Copyright ©1998 Miriam English