[At a loss for what to write, I wrote ‘time’ and ‘place’ in an effort to set the scene, then ended up with the following text.]
The time: 12:15:34
The place: A restaurant by Hyde Park
He sat at the table silently, one leg crossed over the other. It was a table for two, as he’d requested, with gleaming, well-polished cutlery, and plates so white it seemed they could have easily blinded him. Bright red napkins rested against the dark wood, a daring and at once promising contrast. It was clear that the table had been laid in a hurry. Unable to fight his compulsive nature, he straightened the fork opposite him that was turned slightly off. He had folded his arms across his chest and suffered a whole minute before this rearrangement, agonizing over that misplaced article of cutlery. An entire minute without moving, simply clutching his hands against his body, ensuring he did not do something about it.
Baby steps, he told himself. That was what the doctor had said, right? He planned to train himself vigorously to endure longer periods of tolerating such tragic – to him – indiscretions. If he could work at a minute each day, soon he would be able to get through an entire day without feeling the compulsion to straighten loosely hung portraits or alphabetize books (either by author or by title, depending on his mood). Part of him hoped it would work; he had no desire to seek answers in medication: the medical profession’s response to seemingly everything. Through his awkwardly unorthodox knowledge of the medical profession, he was aware there were pills for everything: pills for nausea, pills for headaches, pills for sleeping too little, pills for sleeping too much, pills for itchiness, pills for being too happy, pills for being sad… the list just went on. Undoubtedly, such variety in pills came as the result of the capitalist society they inhabited, driven to create solutions where there were no problems because pharmaceutics companies and doctors were obsessed with making money.
No, sir, he would not partake in that monkey ritual, thank you very much. He could control this.
A few more minutes ticked by. One delicate hand smoothed out his shirt and tie, and then found occupation tip-tapping on the cold surface of the table, along to light jazz sounds resonating in the background. Absentmindedly, he dusted some white specks off the corner nearest him; really, did these people not clean at all? Why do I even bother to come here? he wondered. He knew the answer, of course, but revelled in the mild irritation. It felt like a sacrifice he made each time, compromising his sense of self to spend time with another. A sacrifice they were both aware of.
Running out of things to think about before feeling the urge to realign the crockery, he fumbled in his pocket and brought out a silver-plated watch. The outer surface was polished clean – perhaps too polished, as the details of the design had faded. He clicked it open to reveal the time. The frame’s interior engraving reminded him how old the watch actually was – it had belonged to his grandfather – yet it still kept perfect time.
Where the devil-? His companion was never that late.