As I push a lonely olive around my plate, I muse that it might be a metaphor for my life at the moment, sitting alone in this little taverna, feeling sorry for myself. I look around and see an old, overweight, balding man to my left and suddenly realize that it is my own reflection. I’m horrified – for some reason, I hadn’t noticed before how I’ve let myself go since my wife passed away five years ago. I am so confused and alone.
I took up playing bridge with some friends to pass the endless days but it is only a temporary antidote to the pain. My family have been supportive and have tried to keep me going, but the nights are almost unbearable, lying awake in our bed, staring at the ceiling.
I check my watch and look around, hopeful that my guest tonight will arrive but she’s already 25 minutes late. Am I pitiful for contemplating this blind date? I look around and all I see are young couples enjoying themselves. I feel nervous waiting for her to arrive.
I check my phone, no messages. Am I being silly? My son taught me how to use an internet dating site. I was reluctant, but he told me that it was the best way to meet new people nowadays. I apologised to my dearest wife and say to myself that she would be the first to understand, but deep down I know it is an excuse.
I decide that I have waited long enough and I’ve lost my appetite. I order a nice bottle of a local red wine and light up my favourite cigar. In fact the chat room where we first met was all about cigars, she loved them too and had a dry sense of humour that appealed to me. She was engaging and has eased the loneliness. We arranged to meet.
The waiter that brings the wine tells me that he is sure she will turn up, but I’m not convinced, so I resolve to not feel sad tonight but I do feel silly, dressed up for a date with myself. I glance around and smile at the lady on the next table and she looks sympathetic.
I stub out my cigar and savour the last drop of wine. It is well over two hours now. What foolishness this internet is, what could I have been thinking.
As I stand up to leave, the diner on the next table spoke for the first time.
‘Sorry to be so forward, but if you are not in a rush would you like to join me?’
She was about my age, and very attractive. I was so engrossed in my pain I didn’t notice her earlier.
“Erm,” she continues, “I don’t normally talk to strangers but…” She breaks off.
‘’Arthur,” I say. She looks confused. “My name is Arthur, so now I’m not a stranger.”
She smiles and asks. “Would you like a glass of wine?”
I nod and join her at her table. “I’m Athena. I noticed you earlier,” she says, “I would have asked you to join me but you were smoking. The smell was just too strong.”
I apologise but she laughs it off and we chat for the rest of the evening, enjoying a couple of brandies and the rest of her dessert.
It’s now a year later and I no longer smoke cigars. I don’t miss them as I now have something far better, Athena moved in and my life has a purpose again. Just goes to prove, you can never really plan life, it always has a way of surprising you.
Story by Theo Michael & Neil Smith