The Japanese Restaurant
On my lunchbreak I walked past a Japanese restaurant and saw my friends at a table by the window. They were laughing, drinking; I had never seen them so happy. The same time the next week they were there again, the same eight, my closest friends in the world who I loved spending time with. The next week they were there again, this time I went inside and out of sight of their table I talked to a waiter.
'How long have those people by the window been coming here?' I asked.
'Well I've worked here for a year and they were regulars when I started' he told me, folding a serviette into a swan.
'Always the same eight people?'
'Always the same eight people' he said and asked me to leave.
The next week I arrived as the restaurant was opening.
'I have a favour to ask' I said to the same waiter, who was hoovering the foyer. 'When that table of eight eat here later will you eavesdrop, write down everything you hear and I will come tonight and you can tell me.'
'No' the waiter said, wrapping the flex around the handle of the vacuum cleaner.
'Please' I begged, and watered the plants as he polished the knives and forks.
'What were they talking about?' I asked that night. The waiter and I were sharing a cab home after realising we lived on the same road.
'I cannot tell you' the waiter told me.
'I need to know' I said but he shook his head and remained quiet for the rest of the journey.
'I'm desperate to know!' I said the next day.
'To be honest I didn't hear much. It was hard with the sound of laughter and popping of Champagne.'
'Okay' I said, and his wife handed me a towel and I thanked them for the use of their swimming pool.
'But here's what I think' the waiter told me. 'This isn't about anything I heard, but it's how I feel sometimes around people I know. Maybe you take your friends for granted. Maybe you are happy to take their compliments and invitations and advice but reluctant to give anything back. Maybe life is easier for them without you. Maybe you aren't generous enough.'
So I invited them round to my house, all eight. I bought Champagne and port and cheeses. I cooked Japanese food and watched as they prtended to struggle with their chopsticks.
They couldn't stop tickling each other
They went to restaurants because they hated doing the washing up. They always followed the same rule: they would never order for themselves. At first they would just pick for each other from the menu. When the novelty of this wore off, they would ask strangers to chose for them. One time they invited another couple to join them at their table and they all ordered for each other.
They had one favourite restaurant, where the waitresses knew not even to give them the menu. In the kitchen, the chef would be told of their arrival, and he would prepare their secret, special dishes. They told him to create whatever he wanted, neither had peanut allergies and both quite liked seafood.
Soon the restaurant got rid of the menus completely, every guest followed the same rule, the chef decided the dish they would eat. Every single plate was returned to the kitchen empty.
They always read the same book at the same time. Next to each other on the settee they will turn the pages as one. They have a four poster bed. Once they had a pillow fight, and rose petals fluttered over the bed instead of feathers. When they ran the bath, champagne came from the taps, despite being connected only to a water tank. The plumber was baffled.
John Osborne has had two non-fiction books published by Simon&Schuster. The first, Radio Head, was broadcast as Radio 4's Book of the Week in 2009. The second, The Newsagent's Window was published earlier this year. He has had poetry published in The Guardian, The Rialto and The Spectator, and his first pamphlet, What if men burst in wearing balaclavas was released earlier this year, published by Nasty Little Press.
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