Strangers

My husband and I were ordering an early dinner in our hotel restaurant, when a tall young man came in and sat two tables away from us. It was cold and windy in Washington DC, and he looked glad to get inside where it was warm. He was wearing a thin coat, a hat and a backpack, and looked as though he might be a university student. I had a strange feeling about him, but I couldn’t define it. It was a Saturday night and he was alone. When the waiter came over, he said he just wanted “something sweet.”

Tom and I went on with our meal, which arrived shortly. When the young man’s dessert arrived, it looked lush and delicious, and in an attempt to be friendly, I commented on it. He immediately offered me some, which I declined, but said I wished a report on it when he was finished.

We turned away from our brief conversation, and Tom told me that his generous and spontaneous offer was very Arabic.

When all our meals were finished, I asked the young man where he was from. Qatar, he replied. Do you know where that is? Tom immediately spoke up and said “the Arabian peninsula”. The young man seemed impressed. He said he was a student in D.C. I asked if he missed his family. He said he had just visited them two weeks before, and sometimes they come to DC to see him there. He asked about us, and we told him we lived in New York and had known each other since college. Since college!? He looked surprised and wistful, as though he was thinking of what it would be like to find the love of his life so early and spend his life with her. I wondered if he were lonely that Saturday night, and how often he spent his weekends alone.

He paid his check and as he stood up from his chair to leave, he nodded goodbye. And then, without a moment’s hesitation, he said “Be safe,” and walked out of the restaurant.

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