18 July 2018 4.45 pm
At the neighboring table a middle aged, corpulent woman in a flower-print blouse, dainty pink and mauve flowers scattered on pure white, talks animatedly to the man opposite her. Her voice rises, she points her knife at him, repeatedly, in sync with the cadence of her words that I can’t make out. The knife is a regular restaurant metal knife, the end of the blade slightly rounded, not sharp and pointed like a steak-knife’s. The table is not wide; as she stabs and stabs horizontally in his direction, the tip of the knife is maybe two hands away from the man’s head. Her gesture appears to be one of righteous insistence rather than anger.
The man sits still, back straight, head slightly forward, unblinking. Smooth-faced, well-shaven, with unusually big ears, he is sun-tanned and looks younger than the woman. I detect no reaction in his face.
The stabbing motion clearly troubles me, however. I’m in the process of carefully deboning a grilled sardine and when that’s done, I fork up the discarded spine and half-way guide to my mouth. I gather my spirits but can’t stop watching. The woman leaves the table for a moment. Alone, the man slumps, rests chin and cheek on his right hand as if comforting himself, then straightens again and with thumb and index covers his lips. When the woman returns, I catch a couple of her words: “responsabilidad”, “actitud”, “formalidad”.
I push my plate to one side, three untouched sardines laid out, nicely parallel. Creepy, I think. Perfect mirror of a tendency to lecture on what I lack. The woman grabs the just emptied plastic coke bottle by the neck and vigorously points its transparent, generous bottom at her interlocutor. Droplets of sweetness left inside. When for a last time I look, having decided to focus on my Pan de Calatrava desert, the woman holds a hand out towards the opposite side of the table, palm down, soft curve reaching out, innocent, hopeful.
On leaving the restaurant, the woman’s and my paths cross; I hear her say in Valencian: “A Deu”, to no one in particular.