Much Depends on Lunch
She was wearing all white, he was dressed in all black. She decorated herself with pearls and earrings, wore high heels and a short dress. He was in a suit that seemed to absorb whatever it was touching. The two of them could not have looked more Vaudeville together if they had tried; but still they met in the cafe for lunch.
Each of them silently competed to see who could order the smaller, cleaner meal. She ordered the house salad, he stuck with a glass of water. They spoke quietly, whispered so that the waiter could only hear them speak while delivering their food. He listened and tried to understand; he had learned the price of knowledge well in the past.
"What you don't understand," the man in black said, "is that I don't care what I win. I just like playing games."
"And is that what you're doing?" she asked. She stabbed a piece of wilted lettuce, wishing she hadn't gotten anything. Outside, rain clicked against the cobblestones. "You're playing a game."
"Oh, no," he said. "I think you've misunderstood me."
"But that's exactly what you just told me. You like playing games."
"Exactly. Pay attention to how people phrase things, how people speak. It will tell you volumes about them."
"So what did I miss?"
"You asked if I was playing a game."
"I'm not," he said, biting into an ice chip. "I'm playing all of them."
The waiter finally walked away, satisfied there wasn't anything to be learned from the odd pair. He thought nothing more of it until he watched the woman's hands shake as she signed the check.
"Has the Monsieur already left, ma'am?" he asked.
"God, I hope so," she answered before throwing open the door and thundering out through the rain.
An America Story