The restaurant stood on a narrow street, squeezed between two similarly lavish-looking buildings. On each side of the wide double doors, stilted arch windows topped with corniced keystones were lined like soldiers in decorated uniforms. Vertical rope-shaped moldings ran up the facade and a burgundy-and-white sign between the central two read “********”.
The interior was yet another variation of red, this time maroon, dominating the premises and creating an impression of being inside a warm, palpitating organ. This feeling was further enhanced by a handful of waiters maneuvering around the tables similar to erythrocytes flowing along capillaries.
One of these suit-clad blood cells, however, presently stood coagulated with the brown-red wall behind him. There was nothing, really, that set this young man apart from his colleagues, except that his hair was a tad darker or his shoulders more upturned. His lower lip, as it often happens to young, impressionable people, quivered slightly. His only remarkable characteristic, indeed, was the greenish tinge to his face that said far more about his experience in life, rather than his health. We will not bother ourselves with the young man’s name, in fact, we will only take as much interest in it as the visitors of the restaurant, that is, none at all and instead we will simply call this young specimen The Waiter.
The reason why this young man was sulking in the restaurant on a Tuesday evening, which was, mind you, supposed to be his day off, fell into his mailbox with a thump several days earlier, in the form of a new heating tariff, evidently invented by his landlady. After shuffling two stories downwards and knocking on her door, the culprit emerged in all her stocky assurance to fill the doorway, knuckles pressed into her fleshy hips.
“Well there’s nothing I can do about it, now. The heating cost’s gone up and I can’t be having it on my expense,” the woman had bellowed with an apologetic leer, offering a generous view of her molars.
Somehow, even with a new protest already on the tip of his tongue, the young man felt his hands drop in front of this full-blooded, feisty shamelessness.
He had immediately noticed, that she was one of the people who slept tight through the night, undisturbed by moral dilemmas or any kind of emotional stirrings that plagued those who were more vulnerable. In this respect, the landlady resembled to The Waiter a pot-bellied Mongolian pony that survives on nothing but snow and a handful of weeds long after all the other horses have died. He made a tactical retreat to his apartment and promised to himself he would find a way to deal with the problem, albeit a tad later.
The Man With No Face
It was half-an-hour or so later, that the double doors produced the first visitors of the evening- a man of average height with a woman anchored on his arm. The Waiter stirred and peeled himself off the wall.
A heavy, double-breasted coat with wide lapels flapped open, reveling a checked lining on the inside. Two black patent leather shoes carried their owner towards the metallic hangers and a neatly manicured hand adorned with a wedding ring rose to slide a pair of tortoise-shell glasses higher on a nose before gripping the coat on each side and pulling it off in one swift motion.
The Waiter squinted to take a better look at the man – he had forgotten to put his contacts in – but he could just as well have not bothered at all. There was nothing memorable about this man, apart from the way he dressed, and were he clothed in a plain shirt and trousers, he would be unnoticeable.
The young man somehow found it absurd. Everyone had a unique feature or two, did they not? But stare hard as he did, the young man could not identify a single detail that would distinguish the visitor as something more than just a well-dressed mannequin.
Now he’s lifting his sterile hands to clasp them around the coat of his companion. The face turns for a short fraction of moment toward The Waiter, and, good grief, it’s as smooth as rice paper with eyes of cool gray and green and brown, or perhaps of all colors that make them no color at all. The woman peels out of her mink coat; a matching golden band flashes on her finger – that’s the wife, alright – and they move toward a table in The Waiter’s section. The closer they advance, the colder the trickle of fear before the unknown grows inside The Waiter. The bizarre man is wearing a graphite cashmere suit that sighs softly with each movement. Does the queer automaton know what it took to spin and weave the fabric he’s carrying on his frame? – the Waiter wondered, absent-mindedly.
The famous cashmere wool fabric is made of the most delicate, long hairs of the undercoat that grows on the soft underbelly of cashmere goats. The wool is collected during the molting season in late spring, when the goats shed their rough overcoats. Instead of shearing – what blasphemy would that be! – the hairs are brushed loose and sorted by hand. And with that, the process in not nearly complete, no-no, – the Waiter smirked. What with the refining and dyeing and spinning and weaving, the end product would be so expensive, that only the finest garments are granted the honor to carry the name of the Kashmir region in India.
The waiter mentally slapped himself back to the present moment. Even with all the story embedded in the fabric of his suit, the only thing the blank-faced man appeared to think about, The Waiter reckoned, was how to attach himself to an electric charging cable once he got home.
The young man could not explain to himself why he felt so repulsed. You see, this was his first encounter with a person who wears one’s personality on a shell of absolute emptiness instead of carrying it inside and to any living being this seemed, on an entirely subconscious level, unnatural and, therefore, terrifying.
There was something so oddly frightening in approaching, head-on, a person who was evidently dead inside, that The Waiter did a peculiar jig on the spot, as his feet tried to carry him in the opposite direction. He then steadied himself, took a ragged breath, and, in all his green-faced determination, strode toward the couple.