"Maybe one of our specials?"
"Anything besides one of the specials."
"I see sir. Well I would recommend-"
“Don't even tell me what it is. Just go, pick anything you like."
Here he was again. He said he'd stop doing this. Whenever he ate alone he got so anxious he couldn't even look at the menu, he couldn't even be polite to his waiter. At least they’d given him a table tucked into the corner. He sat back and watched the kitchen doors flashing open and closed as full trays danced out on carefully perched arms. The tables were closely lit which he felt put eyes on him. The restaurant was about 20 polite conversations loud, and he imagined every word of them as some terrible insult. He knew too he was probably the only difficult patron among them. He knew this with certainty he thought. He told himself there were more difficult customers somewhere, stranger, ruder requests than just ordering anything, and he’d leave a good tip. He always left a good tip. The drinks came out.
"Here you are sir, a glass of our-"
"Please don't tell me what you bring me. It makes me anxious."
“I’m sorry, yes sir.”
"No, no, I'm sorry. Just really bring me anything."
"Really, it could be anything; I won't mind."
"I love anything sir."
The waiter poured a glass of water and the red wine. He sipped the red wine much too fast for something to do. It was very good however. He asked for another of the same, and if he could bring another with dinner?
"How about the bottle?"
"That'd be fine."
When the waiter came back he had the bottle but had removed the label. The man smiled, said thank you with especial gratitude while the waiter refilled his glass. The waiter smirked,
"It's no problem sir."
He finished the pour with a final, graceful twist and placed the naked bottle on the edge of the table.
At the end of a glass and a quarter, the waiter brought the food out. He didn't say a word, laid the plate down and stepped back.
"Anything else sir?"
The man studied the food but couldn't identify it, which was perfect.
"No. You're an excellent waiter."
"Thank you, sir." the waiter had a smirk on his cheeks.
He left the man to his meal.
These rare occasions with everything falling into place were why he kept doing this, he told himself. Usually it came out boring, and, despite everything, the man had an adventurous appetite. He was fond of saying, "Variety is a spice." Saying to someone, but he enjoyed new and strange things. Most waiters were cowards. They'd serve chicken Alfredo with peas but tell you anyway. This is our chicken Alfredo- I told you not to tell me what it is.
They'd still get a big tip of course. It's not their fault for being cowards or having his table or for him. Tonight, however, he had an excellent waiter. The dish was one long delicate noodle looped like an unfolded hank of yarn. Strung into the pasta were what he would have sworn were Kalamata olive pits, but when he accidentally bit one, they were soft and juicy like a ripe strawberry. At the center of the bowl, haloed by the pasta, was a medallion of what looked like coagulated blood. He pressed it with his fork; its whole surface cracked like an egg shell, and a buttery pale liquid oozed into the dish. It was delicious. He ate every bite, even the shell. It was chalky and sweet.
When the waiter came to take away his plate and wine glass, empty now, the man complimented him again.
"That was a brave choice. I applaud you."
Maybe the wine or perhaps the food, something. He felt chatty. The waiter showed no chagrin or confusion. He cleared away the plates and thanked the man for the compliment. When the waiter returned he had a finger of liquor in a shot glass,
"I believe this is the perfect way to end the night."
"Would you have one with me?"
The waiter's smirk returned while the man waited for his answer. The man was sitting back in his chair now, enjoying the nearly empty restaurant. The night had gathered closer around the dim table lights. A few giddy families murmured and laughed over the tops of empty glasses, while waiters and bus boys silently put everything away. Bills hung on the edge of tables, hands in one another, and empty bottles all. He soaked it in.
"Sure," the waiter finally answered.
He came back with a glass of exactly the same, and placed it right in front of the one he'd served for the man.
"Do you have something you'd like to toast to?"
They picked up their glasses and clinked. The waiter pulled his glass up under his lips and spit in it. He looked at the man with an excellent poker face. The man looked back somewhat gravely and then down into his own glass for sometime. Then he sighed with a laugh, pulled the glass under his chin and spit in it as well. The waiter could barely keep his grin on his face. They drank. The man left a tip a little higher than he could afford and took the subway home.