The restaurant window is a square of yellow light. Wine glasses on the tables, napkins folded, table cloths perfectly symmetrical. In there it is warm like rice. Out here it is cold like wine.
Street lights are staining the sky, cars swim past and their headlights flicker.
Next to the restaurant window, a cinema begins. Inside there is royal red carpet and posters of faces and words. Warm like a lounge room.
My hands are uncovered. My thumbs are frozen. If my date texts me, I won’t be able to reply. The moisture in the air is curling my fringe. It will be ruined by the time he comes. My oppressed heels are trying to escape out the bottoms of my boots. There are no seats out here, so I have to stand until he comes.
This top accentuates the line of my shoulders. It curves around my hips until it meets the lip of my jeans. I should have brought a jacket. But the line of my top accentuating my shoulders was too convincing. He’s missing it.
There’s a man standing in front of the yellow window now. I envy him for his leather jacket. His feet are moving about impatiently, his hands thumbing the insides of his jean pockets. Hair combed back nicely. He is looking lustfully at the red cinema. He has his back to the yellow light restaurant, otherwise he would stare lustfully into there as well. His lips are chapped like mine and he licks them as I lick mine.
He doesn’t notice my staring at him. He thinks I’m just looking into the yellow restaurant. Really I’m looking at the way his hair is beginning to curl like mine, the way his eyes paw the ground, the way his feet can’t be still, the way he licks his lips. Then his brown eyes stop darting and look straight into mine.
This is a pretty empty street. The restaurant and the cinema would probably both be out of business if they weren’t both so warm. No one can see our eyes kiss, that miniscule second in which our gaze joins in the middle. No one can tell my date and no one can tell his. Not even the people in the restaurant and the cinema are looking at us. They’re too busy with folded napkins and faces on posters. We have privacy.
It’s a long moment. It surprises me. He smiles after a while. I think our moment is up, but instead he stops licking his lips and opens his mouth.
“Waiting for somebody as well?”
I reciprocate his smile. “That’s right. He’s late.”
He looks at his watch, pulling back the sleeve of his jacket a little way. “I’m early. I’m always early.”
“Where are you going to go when she comes?”
“A restaurant across the road. It’ll be warm in there at least.” He rubs his hands together.
“It’s better to be early than late.” My hair is completely curly now. He’s missed it all.
“It’s a Chinese restaurant. I hate Chinese food.”
He is watching the second hand of his watch wander around the clock face.
“I wish men were gentlemanly again.” I remarked.
He walks over to stand next to me after a while. Now we are both looking into the yellow light of the restaurant.
“It looks so warm in there.” He rubs his hands together again.
“Warm as rice.”
He chuckles and it is a deep, lukewarm sound.
“I hate waiting.”
“So do I.”
“When does the term ‘stood up’ apply? I want to go home.”
“You could call him?” he suggests.
“My thumbs are numb. And I won’t forgive him no matter the excuse. It’s far too cold out here.”
He has waited for twenty minutes already. He has not touched his phone either. We both stand there, incomplete pictures not even looking for our other halves.
He pasted our pictures together. Still staring into the yellow light of the restaurant, he slips his cold hand into mine. His fingernails are short and stubby like mine. His skin is soft. And our clasped hands warm themselves. I can tell he is smiling. I am too. The people in the restaurant and the cinema still aren’t looking, but if they were they would see our completed picture.
Very carefully, so that he wouldn’t notice, I turned my phone off. I think he did the same. Nobody interrupted us and no one passed us by. Even the cars with their flickering headlights had stopped coming past.
Without discussing it, we decided on the warm-as-rice restaurant. We sat in the corner so that nobody would look at us still. Our hands clasped under the table so that my thumbs weren’t frozen any more. His chapped-lipped smile was my favourite part of the night. His embrace was warmer than rice and his lips colder than wine. We walked past faces on posters in the cinema and watched the most expensive film. Then we went home and wondered why we did it all.