I stirred my miso with my chopsticks, knowing it was too hot to lift to my lips and sip. One of the four people at the table to my left plopped down in her seat — a seat on the opposite side of the table, on the comfortable bench, where I wanted to be sitting — and sighed, exasperated.
“Do you want another beer? It’s taking forever.”
Carefully I used my chopsticks to stir in a dab of bright green into the dark brown liquid in my saucer. I watched it melt, turn into coffee-color.
“I can’t even get her attention. Why won’t she look over here?”
The students filming two actors at a table in the middle of the restaurant took notice. I tried to give them a look that conveyed I’m sorry and I’m not with them all at once.
“I’m falling asleep. I don’t think I can have another beer. The food isn’t even that great.”
I dunked the rectangular pink slab of tuna into my saucer, dipped it in midair twice to let it drip, and then tucked it into my mouth. Salt and heat and cold, raw fish meshed with my tongue.
“Well, while we’re waiting, didn’t you write a short story about a woman on a train? I remember reading a story about a woman on a train.”
Sliding my chopsticks into the thick cloud of rice, I finished my bite with clean starch. Outside the restaurant, people skated on the makeshift ice rink to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. It was the week before Christmas and fifty degrees, and I tried to avoid having dinner with five student filmmakers and four cranky strangers.